Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Painfully stupid

This is a little old, but it's been bugging me for a while.

I was willing to keep an open mind about this man until I saw the talk above. He hasn't actually formed a line of argument! He makes patronising comments like, 'You guys like data,' and, 'You all know more about the internet than I do' and yet he still doesn't credit the audience with the intelligence to notice that he hasn't given any evidence for his conclusion. He opens by saying that the internet is going to improve people power and that this is the way that he can improve things without spending more money, but at no point does he explain how this will happen. Reason is pretty important to me, and that he would so comprehensively avoid using reason or acknowledging its value is like a slap in the face to me. The fact that politicians don't believe that the public at large can digest a well-constructed argument is bad enough - the fact that they apply this even to the viewers of TED is absolutely horrifying. I'm beginning to believe that Cameron might not be cynically withholding rational argument, but is simply incapable of forming one.

In any case, I decided to post this because I've recently realised what he might have said if he knew how to write a coherent line of argument.

A vast amount of public money goes to institutions that make up 'The Public Sphere.' The Public Sphere denotes the area where the public can receive open information and express their views. It is by means of the public sphere that consensus is created. This used to be made up of libraries, museums, schools, public service broadcasting such as the bbc, and newspapers. However, the internet, as a new medium of communication and information that allows us to communicate with more people and acquire more knowledge than was ever possible before, may supplant the old public sphere with its superior opportunities for self-expression and self-education. What I think Cameron is getting at is that since the internet exists, we don't need public services as much as we used to, so we can cut their funding.

This is very worrying to me, as I rather like museums and libraries and I want to work in them. I think there is still a place for them, in spite of the changes brought by the internet. There is evidence that although the internet hosts a large amount of information, internet culture prevents most individuals from actually hearing different sides of the same story. Through inter-blog link love and selective sharing of news stories to blog subscribers, people end up cocooned in information that suits their pre-existing narratives on the world. This is known as 'cyberbalkanisation.' The internet brings some people together, but it also deepens existing factions. This is most clearly seen in the complete lack of overlap in information shared on sites supporting Israel and sites supporting Palestine. Only the former will write about Hamas, and only the latter will write about living conditions in Gaza. Museums and libraries exist to challenge people's intellect and prejudices, whereas the internet tends to confirm them. Yet Cameron would use the internet as an excuse to cut funding to these and other public services.

He may think he's supporting people power, but really he's supporting mob rule.

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