5 November 2006

Digital utopia

Be the first to share

Digital utopia
A new breed of technologists envisions a democratic world improved by the Internet, writes Dan Fost in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The new Internet boom commonly referred to as Web 2.0 is really an exercise in digital democracy,” he writes.

“Dubbed Digital Utopians by some, and Web 2.0 innovators by others, this latest wave of tech gurus champion community over commerce, sharing ideas over sharing profits. By using Web sites that stress group thinking and sharing, these Internet idealists want to topple the power silos of Hollywood, Washington, Wall Street and even Silicon Valley. And like countless populists throughout history, they hope to disperse power and control, an idea that delights many and horrifies others.”

“The core of the Web 2.0 movement resurrects an age-old debate about governance and democracy, one that was argued by political philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Alexis de Tocqueville: Are the benefits of democracy — taking advantage of what Web 2.0 proponents call the wisdom of the crowds — worth risking the dark side of mob rule?”

Fost realises that the Web 2.0 movement is not without its share of critics.

Andrew Keen warns against the dangers of embracing technology’s level playing field. Keen, 46, a former professor and philosopher turned tech entrepreneur, published a tract this year, ‘Web 2.0 Is Reminiscent of Marx‘, and is working on a book lambasting ‘The Cult of the Amateur‘.”

“Keen dismisses what he calls the ‘militant and absurd’ buzzwords of Web 2.0: Empowering citizen media, radically democratize, smash elitism, content redistribution, authentic community.”

In his article Fost traces the notion of digital utopia back to the early days of computing, in particular the liberal politics of the 1960s anti-war and civil rights movements, arguing that “underpinning the technology movement has always been a sense of community.”. He then goes on to describe how utopians today organise themselves, but also how in the end business always takes over.

Similar warnings for realism come from Aleks Krotoski in an opinion piece in The Guardian, while reviewing the book “The Victorian Internet” by Tom Standage, who is the technology editor of The Economist.

Standage argues that today’s ‘electronic superhighway; is the heir to the more revolutionary 19th-century ‘highway of thought’. Like today’s utopians, the telegraph’s development was accompanied by cries that it would hold the answer to human fraction and foible. But in the end it was unable to stop the advance of the 20th century, economic downturn and its own inevitable downfall. It only helped spread the news faster.”

Discussing user-generated content, Krotoski writes “these spaces are increasingly being taken over by London stock exchange traders with agendas. Viva which revolution?”

- Read article by Dan Fost (San Francisco Chronicle)
Read article by Alex Krotoski (The Guardian)

Be the first to share
19 April 2015
Nudging to improve public policy, health care and our relationship with technology
On Nudging In Public Policy By Alon M. August, University of Redlands (USA) April 6, 2015 This thesis examines nudging, a technique aimed at making individuals act, choose, and behave in the ways deemed rational by policy makers. …
16 April 2015
Putting technology in its place
Kentaro Toyama is a former Microsoft Research Executive and now an associate professor at the University of Michigan. Toyama calls himself “a recovering technoholic”—someone who once was “addicted to a technological way of solving problems.” …
15 April 2015
The woes of a corporate anthropologist [Novel]
Satin Island: A novel by Tom McCarthy Knopf, 2015 From the author of Remainder and C (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and a winner of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, comes Satin Island, an unnerving novel that promises …
10 April 2015
We are citizens, not mere physical masses of data for harvesting
The deal we have struck with the information society over the extent to which our lives are shaped and our privacy invaded requires urgent renegotiation, argues law professor Julie E Cohen at the annual Law …
3 April 2015
Design prototypes for Nairobi, Kenya
In 2014, Ericsson and UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme) entered a three-year partnership with the intention to collaborate around Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and sustainable urbanization. One of the first explorations was driven by …
3 April 2015
Automotive sales could grow 24% if retail experience improved
New ethnographic and quantitative research from DrivingSales identifies how the growing gap between consumer expectations and the current automotive buying process is suppressing car sales volume. Automotive sales could grow up to 24% if the retail …
2 April 2015
The future of loneliness
As we moved our lives online, the internet promised an end to isolation. But can we find real intimacy amid shifting identities and permanent surveillance? A long read by Olivia Laing explores this blurring between …
30 March 2015
MIT Technology Review special report on persuasive technology
The MIT Technology Review has just published a special business report on persuasive technology, i.e. how technologies from smartphones to social media are used to influence our tastes, behavior, and even habits. Free registration is …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

30 October 2014
The BancoSmart ATM by Experientia for UniCredit selected for ADI Design Index

Last year Experientia designed the interface of an ATM of UniCredit, a major Italian bank. The interface is now rolled out across the bank’s ATMs in Italy, to great satisfaction of the bank and the customers alike, since interaction speed is much faster and error rates went down dramatically. Last year UniCredit and Experientia also […]

See all articles