Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The things that are not spoken of are revealed in echoes of their absence. Today Berlin is full of noise. The workshop in the courtyard below is prolific at last, especially now the rains have subsided. The winds are still up, disturbing the birds settled in the trees outside the window, but work below still continues. Thoughts are placed here quickly and with a disclaimer. This is thinking organised only by sentences. The writing of possibilities. If I were not so tired of rhetoric and question marks, they would all be questions.

Regarding Iran, at last I feel comment is emerging from the morass of socially networked gossip. Divided in mindset, I have been torn between the minutely updates I receive via Twitter and their suggestibility. Frequency does not presuppose real information. There are many questions unanswered.

Why should we believe one politically motivated faction over another? Is support for the protests a taciturn support for Moussavi - what do we know of him, his history and ambitions? By turning our avatars green, are we sure that everyone is understanding our show of solidarity in the same way? What of those who have not turned them green? Are they against the freedom to protest? And at what point will people return the avatars to their original colour? At what point is a revolution over? Resignation, recount, bloodshed, coup, international condemnation, invasion, regime change - which of these satisfies the unstated requirements?

(I maintain genuinely, this is not said with coldness nor authority, really it is not. I am not disengaging, merely retreating in the face of ignorance and misinformation. If I am to participate, I must first be educated, I must first educate myself. Someone once said, I have known little, I have known too much.)

All this networking and sharing via the internet is really a preoccupation in our own systems, an interest in our own reactions. In perpetuating this 'revolution' (I abstract not in sight of the word, but in support of real movements on the ground) we in fact ask ourselves how do our news filters operate, how can our information be democratised and disseminated? Twitter almost seems purposeless now. The Mumbai terrorist attacks unfolded and watching those streams unfold was unimaginable - the percentage of useful information seemed to be much higher. The main difference with Iran appears to be the political angle involved. For every useful twitter, there is a counter; for every counter, there are four hundred pledges of support from people not involved. Hashtags are a complete quagmire.

The notion of a twitter revolution is a false one. At times it is hard not to think that it is marketing, little more. It obscures, to an extent, discussion of the strategies of those that govern us. There are quandaries at every corner: international support for the protesters would perhaps encourage higher levels of violence, not to mention potentially jeopardise future negotiations should Ahmadinejad's regime remain in power. What of the roadmap? In the midterm, with its governmental legitimacy questioned, with its respect for its people's voice, how are we to deal with a nuclear state? What do the networks say about these matters?

Beyond this, I wait for the crackdown on internet freedoms. Surely this type of dialogue between old and new medias is the last? Whilst flooded with non-information, the networks still hold enough to be cherrypicked by judicious, informed journalists (yes, there is still a place for you). Twitter's growth must be unsustainable, there are simply too many with too little to say. Combine this self-implosion with the active threats of government internet censorship here in Germany (for example) and it becomes easy to think that this is the beginning of an end. In three years, what will be possible on a network of intelligent routers, transparent proxies and a centrally managed database of forbidden urls? What future then?

Of course, the future is simply a word. It is a word we used in the past to describe the present, no more. So, the future is as it always was. A reaction to what is happening now; in this case we have to hope that evolution and emergence continue. Systems will continue to develop both proactively and reactively; with each technological development comes unchecked growth, then centralisation, experimentation, redevelopment, and obsolescence. Old technologies become things no longer spoken of, no longer spoken through. They are revealed in echoes of their own absences.

No comments: