It is rare that one is present at the exact moment when a new cultural meme is born. Okay, so I was not actually present in the studio when Joan Rivers called Darcus Howe a “son of a bitch”, but I was listening to it live. In fact, I was lying in a state of semi-consciousness and River’s shouting aroused me from slumber.
The presenter, Libby Purves, did well to let the argument run its course, and allow Joan Rivers to refute Darcus Howe’s allegation that she was offended by the word “black”. However, she was eventually obliged to give other interviewees space to promote their projects. She turned to photographer Andrea Jones and said:
Andrea, shall we talk about plant photography?
This simply could not have been scripted better. The new subject was the perfect antidote to a heated debate about racism, true ‘flower-power’ in action.
Other people clearly feel the same. Just as “Weapons of Mass Destruction” has now become an easy short-hand for some figment of the imagination, an impossibly acrimonius debate (or more specifically, its forced conclusion) has already been labelled ‘plant photography’. Several examples of this new turn-of-phrase have already appeared in abundance. The blogosphere will certainly entrench it in the coming weeks – I wonder if it will catch on stateside?
That the Internet is a radical innovation, on a par with the Printing Press, is an oft-repeated mantra, and with good reason. It excites me to think of these decades as a time that profoundly changes society, like the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century.
Jeremy Clarkson, of all people, made a very pertinent point on last week’s edition of Who Do You Think You Are? while he was slagging off enviornomentalists. Admiring the architecture in Huddersfield, he remarked that the industrial revoluton could not have occurred, had the environmental constraints we have today been in place 150 years ago.
So it is with other regulations such as town planning. I was in Glenrothes earlier this week, where the post-war new town atmosophere seems soulless and homogenised. Its all roundabouts. What a relief to return to the mangle of buildings that make up Edinburgh’s Old Town, where ancient buildings, subjected to countless ad hoc modifications and uses, give it charatcter and keep it alive. I would never seek to now abolish town planning or building regulations… but part of me yearns for a time of rapid change and progress.
This is why I am drawn online. It is interesting to watch new online societies, like The Committee To Protect Bloggers, at their fledgeling stage, and to see blogging standards and web ethics evolve. We are still in the innovating, barnstorming phase of this technology, and the rules for its proper use, its ‘best practice’ are being hastily scribbled out. I am glad I am here, and participating. In 150 years, will the codes of practice now being devised be entrenched? Will the standards and methodologies be codified and fixed? Perhaps our sites will need a licence, planning permission, and a signature from the ever-so-expensive Institute of Chartered Web Designers?
The concept of Open Source computer code (such as the WordPress blog engine which powers this site) is both fascinating and fantastic. It is the first thing I cite when having arguments with pessimists who say that the human race is inherently slefish and motivated by profit. That fully working computer programmes are available free leave most people incredulous. That I would donate money anyway baffles them too!
On my reading list are two papers from the think-tank Demos: Wide Open and Open Source Democracy. Both concern the idea of open Source development, and what implications it has for government, democracy, and how we will conduct our politics (and, I suppose, our lives) in the future.
Excerpts and commentary will be posted on this site when I have read them!