Monday, 30 June 2008
Thursday, 19 June 2008
A new culture/media
"A culture that took 200 years to build was torn apart in twenty," is how Paul Mason, in his book "Live Working or Die Fighting," describes what has happened to working class culture in Britain and the west through the processes Thatcherism and Neo-Liberalism have brought upon us. Living in post industrial Glasgow/ Scotland/ UK/ Europe/ US/ France/Spain/etc - the west - is a very different place than it was only a couple of decades ago. Community in housing schemes/ miners villages/ industrial towns/cities has been torn apart by low employment/ lack of shared experience (like the docks/ mines/ steelworks etc), the privatisation of the town centre and a new world of competition on every level has been borne. Working class community has been torn apart by policies such as "right to buy" and the outsourcing of work by the large industrial companies. And the sense of history that came with the assurance of the industrial plant where grandfather, father and son, grandmother, mother, daughter worked side by side has gone.
Mason also says that the fracturing of our society comes with "the culture of individualism born of technological progress. The communications revolution has created a young generation that thinks more individualistically, cares more about its individual rights than its collective ones, and is- to the frustration of union organisers- less inclined to join organisations. If the union way of life was in the [past] the only positive identity on offer to young workers, today they are adept at playing with multiple identities: Shenzhen shoe worker by day, World of Warcraft dwarf by night, retro-punk rocker at the weekend." People spend their leisure time in the new Cathedrals of consumerism – a Saturday trip to Braehead Shopping Centre [mall] outside Glasgow, or any of the large privatised spaces can show you that.
A TRIP TO THE PRIVATIZED, DEPOLITICISED, DEPERSONALISED NEW TOWN CENTRES SHOW HOW COMMUNITY HAS BEEN SHATTERED
Even sports and games are being pulled into private spaces such as the "Xscape" complex with such things on offer as skiing, "sky walks", cinema, football with Kevin Keegan, bowling etc. Communities in which we "come from" are no longer places where people live their lives out – some types of housing are seen as "stepping stones" on the property ladder. Small communities have people moving in and out within a couple of years. People move out of their communities to go (increasingly) to universities across the country, and then find work in new places. The community of family is being spread across the country/ across the world by the ease of travel and cheap flights.In this new fractured world, where do we pull together community? Belonging? Comradeship? Dialogue? Debate? The new "town square" is the internet. Though, that too is being fractured and privatised. For this piece I will not talk about the privatisation of the net, that is for another time, but I will briefly write about how community can be borne across what is there- new community that can exist regardless of the transient nature of modern living- new community that can exist between people who have never actually met, but share common interests/ beliefs etc.- also new community between political allies AND adversaries. A real dialogue with real people. Lawrence Lessig in his excellent book, "Free Culture" says about the west and the US from where he is writing, "We, the most powerful democracy in the world, have developed a strong norm against talking about politics. It's fine to talk about politics with people you agree with. But it is rude to argue about politics with people you disagree with. Political discourse becomes isolated, and isolated discourse becomes more extreme. We say what our friends want to hear, and hear very little beyond what our friends say." He then goes on, "Enter the blog."
ENTER THE BLOG
Indeed. The blog is a place where people can write exactly what they think, and have debate/ discourse with people across the globe. Blogs allow for political discourse without them having to be gathered in a single public space – or at a specific time. Blogs can link to articles in other blogs, and debate and conversation can happen across the world. Commercial pressures do not exist for bloggers, they can obsess, focus, be serious, flippant, whatever. If a blogger writes one good story – that story could be linked across the country/world through other blogs and as the number of links increase, it rises up the ranks of stories. People read peer selected popular stories – and with new tools added to blogs such as Diggit etc, these peer selected stories get a larger audience again. Journalism is freed of all the constraints of commercialism and other issues that hamper the mass media. Lessig goes on, "As more and more citizens express what they think, and defend it in writing, that will change the way people understand public issues. It is easy to be wrong and misguided in your head. It is harder when the product of your mind can be criticised by others. Of course, it is a rare human who admits that he has been persuaded that he is wrong. But it is even rarer for a human to ignore when he has been proven wrong. The writing of ideas, arguments, and criticism improves democracy." Blogs are one way we can create dialogue with people across the world. People writing their political thoughts on their environment/ their immediate communities etc and linking them to SLLU aims and objectives – and creating dialogue between these blogs and other blogs across the world/ country, and not necessarily just our friends – can get our voice out across cyberspace(And with the tools you find on the web, you can advertise your blog online and in the new cathedrals of consumerism by wearing a teeshirt you have designed online with a suitable slogan your blog address emblazoned across it!).
BLOGS CAN BE USED TO HELP KEEP ISSUES IN THE PUBLIC MIND - NEWS CORPORATIONS THINK OF THE "BOTTOM LINE" RATHER THAN WHAT IS IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST TO DISSEMINATE.
Behind every blog/avatar is a real person
The term "cyberspace" suggests something unreal. A place where “unreal” people congregate. A place where the labelled "geeks" obsess and do things apart from real life. This is, in my opinion, like Thatcher and her cronies in the eighties when they said that degrees and courses that studied media were "Mickey Mouse degrees." Degrees such as Film/Media and degrees within the arts that encouraged critical thinking all came under attack. And to attack cyberspace and those who use it to communicate as geeky or as trivial, is attacking or at the very least, mistakenly trivialising the single most powerful communication tool thus-far created by humanity. A communication tool that goes across borders and is very cheap to use in comparison with all other communication tools people have come up with across the years. A communication tool that the corporations are exploiting to the hilt – sinking huge amounts of money/ research and legal fees into (from blog spaces through to forums and Cyber worlds such as Second Life). So who loses if the left succumb to the trivialisation/ labelling of cyberspace/ geekdom? Ignore the naysayers – I would not be surprised if the black arts are in play in rolling out these labels. After all, if a tool is shown to be effective in breaking down the barriers between the reader and writer of news/ political opinion – and in fact en masse we all become the active participants of the triangulation of news/ opinion, then who loses?
The citizen or News Corporation? In Lessig's book he writes about a scheme ran in San Fransisco for children of this new media world. "Media Literacy," as Dave Yanofsky, the executive director of Just Think!, puts it, "is the ability… to understand, analyze, and deconstruct media images. Its aim is to make [kids] literate about the way the media works, the way it's constructed, the way it's delivered, and the way people access it." This is literacy in the world where children (and adults) see on average 390 hours of commercials per year. It is important to understand the grammar of media. It is important to understand how to use that media. And it is important to understand that nowadays most people have the power in the gadgets they have in their every day lives to create media. Elizabeth Daley, executive director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg Centre for Communication and dean of the USC school of Cinema and Television says, "From my perspective, probably the most important digital divide is not access to a box. It's the ability to be empowered with the language that that box works in. Otherwise only a very few people can read with this language, and all the rest of us are read-only." Passive.
FACEBOOK IS ONE WAY TO CONNECT- BUT LET'S ENSURE THOSE WHO OWN DO NOT DICTATE WHAT WE WRITE
We can create a read and write political agenda – at the very least empower people to read and understand the tools that are used to mislead. At the very least show people how they can get their political thoughts into cyberspace with the use of their mobile phone/ video camera/ pc or one or more of the above. The tools are out there and are free. From blogger, through Facebook, myspace, Second Life, Youtube, etc. We have the tools to create a community of news gatherers/ commentators that can link across the world. I would like to suggest the SLLU run basic courses in using the tools and ascertain the skills party members have and can share with others to help create this new Scottish Activist Media. If anyone is interested, please contact me, Neil Scott through Second Life - Avatar name- Plot Tracer; SLLU blog – https://webmail.gccschools.co.uk/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.slleftunity.com/; Facebook – Plot Tracer; email – firstname.lastname@example.org /
Friday, 13 June 2008
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Red Pepper and Philosophy Football Long Hot Summer Party
A night of 1968 inspiration
Friday 13 June, the Offside Bar and Gallery, 273 City Road, London EC1V 1LA
Join us for a night to celebrate and inspire. Featuring Clash sidekick, Mescaleros member and 1968 Squatters movement activist Tymon Dogg, Rocking the Barricades DJ set from Scratchy, 1968 Poetry veteran Adrian Mitchell joined by performance poet Polar Bear. Red Pepper editor Hilary Wainwright, writers Lynne Segal and Sheila Rowbotham, critic Mike Marqusee and Guardian journalist John Harris, art from San Francisco’s Firehouse Kustom Rockart Company.