a tide,turning

This past month has been marked by:

  • Moving from the ghetto of Bushwick to the gayborhood of Chelsea (Brooklyn->Manhattan).
  • Getting laid off from my dog-running position (the day after we decided to move to the area).
  • Extensive website-making and my nascent introduction to programming (Python).
  • Working on my first publications, which are in the final stages of the editing process.
  • A lot of beer-drinking and friendshipping while I wait to hear back from schools and start my new jobs.

At least I am not alone in my misfortune – just another victim of this drowning economy. On the plus side, the current climate has shattered the false gods of individualism and consumer culture, revealing the matrix of proximate connections and interrelationships that enables our survival. As we continue to weave this web of neotribes, those markers of identity that once defined our place in societal structures (be they institutionalized or “alternative”) become increasingly meaningless. Trust, authenticity and reciprocity, those factors which are paramount to the success of online communities (truly the “network of all networks” when I speak of neotribalism), have never been so essential to my survival as they are today.

It’s been an enormously eye-opening experience, and in the process I’ve learned a few things:

  • Dissolution and spontaneity are easy; it’s the building of something new and true that’s the hard part.
  • I’d rather be honest and poor than rich and wasting my time on that which does not align with my values.
  • While I’d long considered myself oversensitive- prone to shutting down in the presence of those who make me feel uncomfortable- I’ve come to deeply value this instinctive mechanism of self-preservation. Trust is not something to be dispensed lightly.
  • On that note, toxic friends construct their own social demise, so let them do so and avoid ’em at all costs.
  • No matter where you are now and how alone you may feel, it will change again with great velocity and immense unpredictability.
  • Thus, continue Big Dreaming and inventing the future, for life itself is an artform fuelled by love’s imagination.

India’s $20 Laptop

In an effort to meet the educational needs of its considerable population (550 million and growing), researchers and computer scientists in India have designed a laptop that costs $20 per unit (expected to fall). This model vastly undercuts the much-hyped (but decidedly problematized) $100 laptop designed by researchers at MIT.

The secretary of secondary and higher education, R.P. Agrawal, expects these laptops to be made commercially available in six months, though no commercial partnership has yet been formed. The design features 2GB of ram and wireless connectivity- barely room for a Linux operating system, let alone the storage of any personal data. As such, all activity through these machines would have to occur on the web, which has some discomforting connotations.

Nevertheless, this is one of the most inspirational bits of news I’ve heard in awhile, even in this most inspirational of times (technologically, politically, and memetically…). I’m hoping this gets supported by some big-time philanthropist, and is spread quickly to the areas of the world that need it most. I think we’ll be needing to develop new platforms and volunteers in the area of distance learning. Open, global universities, like that being envisioned by my new friend and colleague Scott MacLeod- though I far prefer wikis to the heavy load of virtual worlds like Second Life.

The catch, of course, is participation. How to encourage participation? Wikipedia is a great model, but it’s also an anomaly in the world of wikis. Or maybe I’m just dejected about the fact that the bulk of my new wiki, Webnographers, is likely to continue being edited by me and me alone. Clearly, there is a need for more educational jobs through e-learning- and the more educators we get online, the better off we’ll be. Some financial incentive, O-bama?

Of course, India clearly prioritizes advancing technology over acquiring international educators, and as the US increasingly outsources tech jobs to India, this news comes as a quixotic quagmire.

Webnographers.org: Resources for Virtual Ethnography

A recent expanse of free time has enabled me to finally get to work on a project that’s long been brewing in the back of my brain. Webnographers.org is now up and running: a communal wiki for the sharing of ideas, tools, and resources pertaining to virtual ethnography.

Currently, it is organized in the following manner:

  1. Ideas: For brainstorming new approaches to the practice of virtual ethnography.
  2. Tools: Useful tools for online fieldwork.
  3. Library: Books, articles, videos, course syllabi, and a dictionary of terms.
  4. Directory: Researchers in the field (with links to bio pages), upcoming conferences, and pertinent blogs.

There isn’t a ton up there yet, as the past few days have been spent primarily wrestling with the MediaWiki software (which is fabulous, but I’m no programmer). This is the first official invitation to my colleagues working in the realm of internet research to join in the fray. Your participation would be very much appreciated- starting with a Bio page, if you wish. It would be fabulous if together we could create a viable compendium of resources for current and future webnographers!

Check it out at Webnographers.org!