Archives for posts with tag: democracy

I am a firm believer in the notion of public knowledge, which is fundamental to just and democratic societies. This is why I am such a staunch open access and free software advocate. In order for societies to thrive, it is imperative to facilitate a commons, a shared resource of knowledge from which many can equitably benefit.

I am wary, however, of the modernist perspective (which is articulated frequently today through futurist and objectivist rhetoric) that ideas, especially those technological, are centrally useful for improving, progressing, or pursuing some other form of linear (often material) growth. I think there are clear logical and measurable limits to that ideology and so I seek to up-end its grip at every possible turn.

I am concerned, rather, with the notion that ideas (scientific and otherwise) should be shared and developed with the interest of people and environment in mind—justice and sustainability.

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Classical economics might suggest better democracy, better education, better anything, can be the result of technological development and innovation. Further, I think this a generally held social understanding, for which there is a lot of evidence. Better storage and retrieval systems save money at large scale, and can permit education to be run much cheaper. Lowering communication and coordination costs (personal computers, emails, cell phones, messaging, etc) permits creativity, the flourishing of political discourse, and the facilitation of organizing groups.

However, I have a major point to which I will be adding further insight and corrections for quite some time. I do not believe the fundamental practices and emphases on democracy (the right of the people to govern themselves in some fashion), and education (the process by which knowledge is made accessible and learning is facilitated for people) are dependent on technology.

It is easy to imagine future societies in which true/better/real democracy is facilitated by digital or otherwise large-scale peer-to-peer and broadcast technologies. We can get more peoples’ input, have more refined understandings of each other, provide services and solutions easily at scale at very low cost [see Code for America]. But I am skeptical, I am hesitant to suggest such a dependence on technology is necessary. Fundamentally, democracy and education must be grounded in an analog, or even non-industrial ideology.

Iterations and additional expressions of these concepts can take place over any available medium, with great affordances and benefits to boot! But it is the underlying concept that must remain elegantly independent of technology. I fear we imagine a world that is too dependent on technical innovations to save us from ourselves, or the status quo, or oppression in general. Instead, I want to imagine a world that presumes the challenge to oppression and layers any technological apparatus on top, as supplement.