Thursday, August 14, 2008

Heresies, pleasures, procrastinations, pain and punishment

Photo: Girls with red flowers, Rome 2008

I have something to do that is critical but painful. I am behind on things that are pleasurable but not critical. I wonder which is winning?

Neil had an interesting post wondering whether blogging was on the way out. It is not, but it is changing.

The drop out rate from blogging is high. Sometimes this is painful when one loses old friends.

There are now perhaps one hundred million blogs. Obviously the standard varies.

The new social networking tools continue to gather strength. People migrate from blogs to them.

We are all time pressed. Blogs compete with a myriad of other distractions.

Blogs with their date postings are not suited to certain activities.

In all this, blogs and blogging are simply redefining their roles to those which most suit the medium. So long as they continue to make money for their hosts on one side, so long as they meet the needs of writers and readers on the other, blogs will continue.

In a comment, and with justice, Bob Q queried my delay in following up on my Kondratiev posts (here, here, here). Now there was a bit of an in-element in Bob's comment in that I do have a bad habit of saying that I will return to something and then not doing so! However, in this case I would plead that I have been thinking about some of the issues.

In this case, the question on my my mind has been the impact of the new computing and communications technology and especially the question as to whether the IT revolution has come to an end in terms of its major economic impacts. This links to Kondrtief cycles in that some of its proponents have argued that the ending of the IT revolution marks the downturn in the cycle.

I started exploring all this in Have we come to the end of the IT revolution? and then in End of the IT revolution - organisational rigidity. I am presently working on a somewhat counter post looking at ways in which the IT revolution might continue.

At a personal level I am not a technology leader. I like things to work. I am not greatly attracted to fashion. And I hate replacing equipment to gets something new if the existing equipment is still working. Despite all this, I am also a tester of new things, if with a lag. When I do, I look at how they might be used.

As a simple example, take facebook.

I am a member. I check my facebook five or six times a week. But I will never become a facebook fanatic. I dislike its clutter. I do not have the type of social life that might benefit from facebook. And its working systems are not especially friendly to the type of uses that might attract me. So to this user, facebook is a helpful but limited tool.

Blogging, by contrast, is a far more useful tool for my own interests. It allows me to write. It keeps me in touch with the broader personal and professional world. It forces me to question my own views.

I am a bit of a heretic, a tendency that has increased with age. I have seen too much to allow me to take any assertion for granted.

Just at present there is much debate about the parlous state of the mouth of the Murray. As I listen or read about this I ask a very basic question: what was the mouth like before? What is new?

The short answer appears to be that the modern Murray mouth appears to date to the construction of a dam near the mouth that changed the river, a change that created its own economic and social dynamics. The river mouth that we are trying to protect is in fact a relatively modern construct and is driven by forces created by that construct.

Just at the moment the media is full of Olympics reporting. This draws out clearly the way in which perceptions affect reporting.

One issue is the way in which medal tallies are reported.

Channel 7 news carried a story reporting on the way the US media reported the medal tally, adding the medal total together. This allowed the US media to report that the US was still in front of China. By implication, this was wrong, with Channel 7 suggesting that only gold counts. Yet Channel 7 itself totals the medals in the same way!

A second issue is the nature of reactions to Chinese Government developments and actions.

Let me make my own position clear. China is a one party state. Perhaps more importantly, it is an empire that now and then operates as an empire. It is an empire whose history has been dominated by tensions between central control and regional separatism. And it is also an empire whose history over the last two hundred years has been strongly affected by external intrusion that has directly attacked the centre of Han Chinese pride and sense of self-worth.

In terms of the broad sweep of Chinese history, the communist period is but a brief passage. The current communist government is simply the latest manifestation of broader Chinese historical trends.

There is no real recognition of this in media reporting, nor is there any recognition that the values that are held as self-evident by the western press are a minority view in both current and historical terms.

Again don't get me wrong. I share those western values. I just struggle with what I see as biased, insular, reporting.

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