August 2008


So here’s something, I’m most of the way through Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, and I’ve almost had enough. It’s an interesting book, and I agree with many of is premises and arguments because I’ve thought them myself. For instance, his assertion that you shouldn’t fret about all the stuff being written on the net. It seems that because we’re used to stuff being directed at us we tend to assume that everything we read in social media is written for us. But this simply isn’t the case.

Most social media is written for a small group of people known to the author, although this group may vary from topic to topic, and the stuff is put out into the ether as a complement to day to day conversation. Or put another, slightly more theoretical way, our embodied selves are now extended and expanded into cyberspace. The SciFi writers are already all over that one though, with independent avatars working to process or accumulate additional embodied knowledge for us a common (some would say banal) feature of contemporary novels.

What has annoyed me about Shirky and other authors boosting the “Web2.0s” is the constant carping about how social media will fundamentally transform the way our society works. So, you, Shirky, and that guy who wrote Wikinomics, we get the picture!! Move on, please. Yes, social media has allowed the masses to free up their voices, and centralised organisation no longer carries the weight it did. And, we can now harness multiple points of thought to achieve what it used to take hierarchical organisation to achieve. But where to next?

After working with and reading about social media for a bit now, I’m in agreement that it is a revolution in social organisation and creation of information. In day to day terms that means we are able to access more and better information from across the globe, if we know how. And if we don’t know how then there are more and more people stepping into the market opportunity that is; filtering signal from all the noise. But does that mean that people are better at utilising the unprecedented amounts of information they have access to? 

Are we actually any wiser?

Awhile back I heard a geezer from Canterbury University speaking about IQ testing. Apparently average IQs in this day and age are much higher than the turn of the C20th. But, he argued, this is mostly because the kinds of intellect the tests are looking for is now far more prevalent, and primarily due to modern education. So rather than intelligence being higher, the kinds of thinking we’re teaching is well entrenched enough that more people score higher on the test to see if that education is entrenched. If you get what I mean.

So people aren’t actually smarter, they’re just better trained in the way the academy wants us to think.

This suggests to me that increased information won’t actually change people themselves. It will however recondition our society to know how to manage large volumes of, for want of a better word, crap. Something I toyed with a wee while back was the idea that ‘the path is wiser than the walker‘. In the context we’re talking about here, the shape of the interweb is influenced by the way that people act. Lots of people using social media leads to lots of noise of a particular sort, and there are signals for some contained therein. Social media in effect creates a series of “paths” followed by people, and which over time become “the place to get information”. Witness Wikipedia.

The revolution produced by social media really just means that we produce reliable information for each other, and don’t source this same consumable from corporations. Nothing new in that statement though.

Where this big circle of wondering leads me to is, how much are we creating the web, and how much is the web creating us? Because I’m inclined to think that our increasing dependency on the interweb to source and manage our information will begin to influence social thought itself in much the same way as education has shaped IQs. The production of noise becomes normal and expected, with the most valuable members of society becoming those who can filter for signal.

“Sheer”. Probably the most mis-over-used word in New Zealand. The sheer prevalence of sheer in conversations, print and other media is a sheer disgrace.

I get that it’s a great adjective for some contexts. But, it’s sheer application is often completely out of place.

 

Whinge over.

So why be frugal?

My most humble opinion is that frugality is best when it’s either: something your born with, or something you learn. Now, if that sounds like I’m pretty much stating the obvious…

One of my mixed fortunes was being brought up by my mum. Solo motherhood is a hard row, and I had two younger brothers she had to keep an eye on as well. But, it meant that I was able to chose my own male role models. Naturally this included my uncles and my grandfather, but also included blokes off TV, out of books, and in bands.

It’s a strange thing trying to define yourself, but I guess it’s something we all do. It’s just that some of us have more clearly defined markers, aeh?

So, masculinity. What seems to be a common mistake is defining femininity and masculinity as roles, or in the doing. Consequently calls are made for men to be more masculine by not being afraid to do childcare, or perform domestic duties.

I’ve never really understood that though, because what you do and who you are two entirely separate things. Yes women were traditionally relegated to particular roles and activities, but I’m not certain that they actually defined femininity itself. Certainly these roles were used to restrict women, but I can’t see having men performing some of these tasks would or could change masculinity or femininity.

Put another way, men doing domestic chores doesn’t make them feminine, so why is it assumed that performing domestic chores makes women feminine? My answer would be that it does not. There is without doubt a strong relation between the “domestic space” and “femininity”, but it is only a relation, not a dependency. The real question is, “to what extent does domesticity contribute to femininity?”

And I’d have to assume that for some women the answer is, “not at all.”

Now, you can flip that question over and ask to what extent traditional male roles like ‘providing’ define masculinity. And again, for some men the answer is negative. It seems that the doing isn’t what masculinity is all about.

What my lack of predefined male role-model allowed me to realise is that masculinity is about the being. Men don’t do things to make themselves masculine, they just are. Masculinity is something you can learn and imitate, but the essence of being a man is not an activity, it just is. And it is also an individual essence, ineffable.

Perhaps Austin Powers is so funny because everyone recognised ‘the mojo’ for what it is!

Putting aside cheesy stereotypes, masculinity is an acquired essence that grows and/or changes as a man matures. Moreover, like many ineffable things it is better defined by what it is not. It is not independent of femininity for example, but is enhanced by it.

My own opinion is that freeing up masculinity from the doing is liberating for both genders. Because we can start to see it as a essence, or an attribute, it can vary and amend itself to its circumstances. Moreover, my masculinity doesn’t undermine or boost yours, we’re each able to define ourselves.

This probably needs teasing out, especially to prevent the introduction of dogmatic or stereotyped masculinity of the sort I mentioned in the last post on the concept (fundamentalism). Would like to hear from anyone about it.

Ah Wellington, city of art, culture, and architecture.

Look at this snap of the City to Sea fountains for example. It’s a lovely water feature that runs from up near the pyramid thingy, and down towards the Michael Fowler centre.

During the summer you can see kids jumping up and down in it on the hot days, and it gives off a wonderful sound of falling water.

Lovely, right.

Nope. This fountain is a civic disgrace, and it and a few other things around town need to be either sorted out of gotten rid of.

The fountain is disgusting. Half the time it’s switched off because it’s clogged with algae or crap, and they’re constantly working on it.

Frankly, everyone who pays rates in this city should be alarmed that they’re paying good money for this monument to bad planning, and that it’s allowed to stay.

They should either:

  1. demolish the whole thing and plant actual gardens
  2. sort out some kind of self-cleaning system similar to Waitangi Park.

So what am I complaining about?

And this is the fountains looking relatively clean. Probably the fact that they haven’t run water through it for weeks now.

Nice to see the seagull having a nice time though.

With any kind of luck this disgrace will be taken away from us, and soon.

First of all I’d like to introduce a new site set up to remind you of all those days drinking bad beer in the Bay of Plenty.

Yetiboil has a huge back-catalogue of 80s and 90s Hamilton bands, and, most pleasingly, the MP3s of the Rotovegas band, the Boogadaggas. I had the Daggas on tape thru the 90s, but it got knicked out of the car in Melbourne… the fkcers.

Strangely, the tape must have stretched because the Daggas are a lot higher and faster than I remember!

Second, I want to direct you all to a new site set up by Stephen Judd and myself. The blog currently known as Frugal Me will mirror some of the content off this site, and is being written for all you cheap-skates out there who like to save money.

At present we aren’t too sure about the name. Alternatives include Cheap As, and The Farmer’s E-Market.

We’re also looking for guest posters. If you have frugal ways you want to share with the world, then let us know.

Open question to the floor.

Lots of English words use ‘in’ as a qualifier. Inadequate, inconsequential,indigestion, etc.

What all those words have in common is that the qualified word stands on its own and is made negative by the addition of ‘in-“.

But what about ‘tense’. In-tense does have a qualifier, but here ‘in-‘ makes ‘tense’ stronger.

English. An annoying and confusing language.

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