It’s 5.40 am. Dawn’s breaking. I have had one of those nights when I can hear myself thinking loudly. That state when your mind won’t go into temporary stasis i.e. sleep and you hear yourself counting sheep.
That chunk of learning that’s been occupying my life. That block now offloaded needs to be replenished. I sleep.
Back in 2004, I built a website. I could code, design since 1997, shoot film and write, so ‘why not’. Mr T’s screaming at me: ‘Quit your jibber jabber’ and get on with it.
Viewmagazine.tv: a tech, creative, journalism magazine driven by video emerged. It was a love to balance out the bean counting elsewhere. In pre-YouTube days video was yet to scream ‘Me, me, me’, so sites with video provided some value.
I’m flying again…
6.20 a.m Mmm that was some power-sleep…
Thinking about 2004, as I walk to the bathroom.. Ah the spirit of the web and its future. Notwithstanding the heady dotcom boom, the web appeared to define something inching towards utopia — an approving work-life balance. Our work on and offline held a decorum. There are many people, friends I know today that hail from that time when the California dream of the Net from Doc Searls and David Weinberger‘s ’Clue Train Manifesto’ seemed prescient. Here’s some of what they said back in 1999.
39. The community of discourse is the market.
40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
91. Our allegiance is to ourselves — our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.
Then something happened. What happened was the harvest, unqualified reach for social-mass attention. The digital enlightenment, much like its earlier incarnation sowed the divorce from the old, and a freer spirit to the new market.
Philosopher Denis Diderot dreamt of a cinematic theme: a young child enters the Palace of Hypothesis, morphs into an adult called ‘Experiment’ and smashes the place and its doddering occupants to smitherins. The age of scientific reasoning, free thinking and the free market was materialising.
Faith in the market, and how we tame it, has become a measure of our success. Perhaps, if we’d thought carefully about it, we should have seen it coming at web 2.0. Searls and Weinberger are all about the market. We, a society undid religion and monarchs and the space become the fighting turf for the new pious.
The market possess its imperfections. We begin to speak not with one another, but over one another. We all become experts. Why not? Why can’t we all share in the spoils, without class or creed being an albatross.
However, in this imperfection, we jettisoned the meeting of minds, for minding ourselves. We might share, not because we really want to, but we need to because it’s the new currency for attention. Attention in this era is monetizable. Attention is the exchange rate for the new digital oligarchs and we’ve all become part of that differential equation.
You may inherently believe there is nothing wrong with this. There certainly is much to laud how digital has enabled our lives to flow more efficiently. I’m no luddite. But that sense of listening, sharing to build, to enjoy what we could do, rather than what’s in sight is challengeable.
Viewmag has changed some since I first acquired my powerbook and showed an editor how one tool could perform multiple functions.
Technology is the millennial alter. The mobile phone may seem revolutionary, but Moore’s law and a slew of sci-fi movies embracing trend extrapolators broke the illusion of the future. Hubris, aside, it was a matter of time.
My real ‘wow’ moment was my powerbook: a bakelite exoskeleton computer, which I booked a return journey to the US to purchase. That, with the original IMac G3 ( still working) have pride of place at home. To go from the machine world of multiple appliances, to having all that I could do on one appliance was my breakthrough. No more production houses to offline video. No more design suites to draft compositions…
Collaborations, co-interdependence, coterminous thoughts, these need revisiting as the following swirl through my head.
- Entrepreneurial: what goes on in the class should not only be linked to current commerce and traditional jobs to fit into, but to push beyond what is in the ‘real world’, partnering communities and neighbourhoods. Universities should be in the business of creating the future, rather than only servicing the present.
- Research should not be the preserve of higher research teams only. One of the thesis I marked this year was about the digital self — which I’m going to contact the student to turn into a short film, a bit like I turned parts of my doctorate into a short film on storytelling after interviewing the father of cinema verite Robert Drew
- Redeploy tech‘s push for social and cultural benefits. Whilst learning, for instance, to film with a mobile phone may seem de rigueur, a more expansive exercise is how mobile may command it’s own narrative or machine language.
It’s 7.40 a.m. I’m outside the door heading for work. Things need to change.
Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster, amongst other things.