History is littered with manifestos, the public statements of principles and intentions that announce policies, revolutions or ambitious visions in politics and the arts.
Every political party produces one in advance of an election, and significant manifestos from history include the Communist Manifesto of 1848, the the Futurist Manifesto of 1909 and André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, which opens with the glorious claim that ‘so strong is the belief in life, in what is most fragile in life – real life, I mean – that in the end this belief is lost.’
In the internet age we’ve had the Cluetrain Manifesto, various ‘Internet’ manifestos and of course John Perry Barlow’s famous Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace which tells the governments of the world that ‘You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather’, and is a manifesto in spirit if not title.
The great manifestos demonstrate a clarity of thinking and expression that can galvanise public opinion, reinforce political movements and create new cultural modes of expression, often because they are strikingly expressed and written in language that motivates and inspires.
Who could fail to be moved by the Futurists’ claim that ‘the essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt’ or Cluetrain’s twelfth thesis: ‘There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products.’
Most weeks I am fortunate enough to hear about interesting and innovative developments in technology around the world as the in-house commentator for Digital Planet, the World Service technology programme presented by Gareth Mitchell.
We hear about solar-powered wifi in Brazil, computing in Nepal, driverless cars in the USA and silicon chips that can tell when their calculations have been affected by cosmic rays.
We get to interview interesting people like Feargal Sharkey, former Undertone and now a lobbyist for the music industry, author Steven Johnson and head of the Mozilla Foundation Mitchell Baker.
And we find out about new initiatives and projects that could shape the emerging networked world, like One Laptop per Child.
But having a worldwide audience doesn’t stop us being interested in developments closer to home, and last week reporter Anna Lacey went to Park House school in Newbury, where they have been experimenting with the use of mobile phones in school.
In the real world national borders, commercial rivalries and political imperatives all come into play, turning the cloud into a miasma as heavy with menace as the fog over the Grimpen Mire that concealed the Hound of the Baskervilles in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story.
Nick Carr coined the phrase ‘miasma computing‘ in response (and I wish I’d thought of it first!), and at GikIII recently the excellent Miranda Mowbray presented ‘The Fog over the Grimpen Mire: Cloud Computing and the Law‘, which organiser Andres Guadamuz called ‘a virtuoso remix of Sherlock Holmes and cloud computing’ that was ‘both endearingly performed and absolutely spot on.’