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Berninger’s Communication Imperative

Daniel Berninger has produced a paper calling for an “Internet Renaissance” by 2010. The idea is that while the printing press brought about the Renaissance (maybe it’d be closer to say it enabled the Enlightenment), the Internet, which is as transformative, has not brought about the equivalent flowering. Dan attributes this to a clash of imperatives: To communicate or to coerce. The old power structure is all about coercion. We need to put our backs behind the communication imperative, says Dan, expanding the Internet’s reach (getting to the next billion means reaching those who make $2 a day, he says) and preserving its openness.

The paper will be a red flag for the Internet pessimists (who view themselves as realists, but I refuse to concede reality to them), but I like its overall framing: We should be working towards something as important as the Renaissance, because the Net gives us that opportunity. And I agree with Dan that it doesn’t mean we can just sit back and enjoy the great art, economic boom and global peace that’s sure to come. There’s lots of work to do. We’re just at the beginning. In fact, as I’ve said before, we’re at a crossroads where we can choose the Enlightenment or a new Dark Ages… [Tags: ]

3 Responses to “Berninger’s Communication Imperative”

  1. “who view themselves as realists, but I refuse to concede reality to them”

    Well, I resemble that remark 1/2 :-)

    As I’ve asked you in previous threads, though, what method do you propose to distinguish between reality vs. wishful thinking (or worse, con-games)? [e.g. Don’t let those bad-news bears bring you down on Dow 36,000, it’s a NEW ERA of The Internet, the stock market is going to the moon, put your money in now, be an optimist …]

  2. Seth, I have tried to address this before, but I don’t have a good answer because I don’t have a single way of distinguishing realism from wishful thinking. For matters of science, it’s one thing. For games of chance, it’s another. For proposing to my wife, it was a third thing. For some types of decisions, my processes are better worked out than others, just as is true for all of us.

    For the type of vision Berninger (and Zack Exley) is proposing, I do agree with you (assuming I’m understanding you correctly) that my politics are at work here. Choosing what one counts as realistic (= attainable, worth working for, and worth hoping for…three interrelated criteria) is a political act. It is based in politics and leads to political action. So, I don’t know that a new Enlightenment is possible. I think and hope it is, and believe that it’s a goal worth working towards, even though I honestly can’t assess its likelihood. If I thought there were zero possibility of moving any closer to that goal, I’d be too discouraged to even try. But, beyond that, I don’t have a general method for distinguishing between what’s real and what’s wishful. I have methods and techniques that vary with the topic.

    So, why in this case do I think Berninger’s vision is possible? In its sweep and totality, I think it’s unlikely, but I think we can move in that direction. Why do I think that? You’re not going to like the answer, Seth, but it’s because of the evidence of change I already see (in a great sea of stasis), beliefs and hopes about human nature, and my understanding (weak though it is) of the factual nature of the Internet and of current world conditions. This constellation of belief means that to change my mind about this, one would probably first have to stamp out my hope rather than amass more dreary evidence.

    I acknowledge that this means my beliefs are not based initially on an objective weighing of the evidence. But I think that’s true of all of us, including the most hard-bitten realists. It’s a tired old argument, but one I still think is valid…

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