Keeping Cyberspace a Public Space

[As ever, this can be read on the BBC News website]

I recently had an opportunity to re-read a pamphlet I wrote in 2000 for a series on new thinking about mutualism published by the Co-operative Party.  In ‘e-Mutualism, or the tragedy of the dot.commons’ I talked at length about the co-operative basis of the Internet, the need for online public spaces which are not controlled or dominated by commercial interests, and the opportunities that the network offers for mutual organisations of all sizes, from small co-operatives to retailers like John Lewis.

I pointed out that the internet is ‘an excellent example of the power of mutualism, having been created and managed through the co-operative effort of tens of thousands of individuals and organisations’ and that it ‘provides an infrastructure on which mutual organisations can thrive, opening up new potential for fast, effective communication and co-ordination of action, collaborative and consensus- driven decision making and global action.’

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More than Digital

[As ever, this can be read on the BBC News Website]

I once got told off by the manager of the BBC’s Heritage Collections for publishing a photograph of Alistair Cooke’s typewriter in its display case on the second floor lobby of Bush House, home of the World Service.

It seemed that photography on BBC premises was not approved of, so I removed the image from Flickr as I didn’t want the people in charge of such things to stop exhibiting interesting artefacts because they were scared we might take photographs of them.

Fortunately things seem to have got a lot more relaxed since 2006, as the stream of BBC-related photos and videos on the world’s many social networks demonstrates.
Cooke’s typewriter fascinated me because it seemed to bring me close to the journalist himself, whose work I had long admired. It’s long gone from the lobby, but I was reminded of it earlier this month when I saw another important typewriter, one owned and used by T S Eliot during his years working at Faber & Faber.

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Social Media Challenges Social Rules

[This can be read on the BBC News website too…]

Last week I sat around a large table on the top floor of Bush House in London with about twenty other people while we talked about the ways radio is changing and tried to imagine how English-language programming on BBC World Service could take advantage of the online, multimedia world that is emerging around us.

I was invited because I appear on Digital Planet each week to think out loud about the impact of technology on our lives, but this was an internal BBC meeting rather than an open seminar, and the discussion was never intended to be made public.

That didn’t stop one of the other attendees, technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, from recording a segment of the introductory remarks that Ben Hammersley, the associate editor of Wired UK, made and posting it online via AudioBoo. And it didn’t stop several of us tweeting about our presence, or me posting a photo of the Rory at his end of the table on yfrog.

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An Internet That Speaks Your Language

[This was posted on the BBC site at the end of October]

It is forty years to the week since the first data packets were sent over the ARPANET, the research network commissioned by the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to see whether computer-to-computer communications could be made faster, more reliable and more robust by using the novel technique of packet switching instead of the more conventional circuit switched networks of the day.

Instead of connecting computers rather as telephone exchanges work, using switches to set up an electric circuit over which data could be sent, packet switching breaks a message into chunks and sends each chunk – or packet – separately, reassembling them at the receiving end.

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Been a long time..

It’s been a hectic few weeks so little bloggage – and I’m in Melbourne for a week so in an unusual timezone. I’ll post some stuff now, though..