[iDC] A Reflection on the Activist Strategies in the Web 2.0 Era

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Fri Jan 16 16:06:47 UTC 2009


thank you for that wonderfully concise overview of your group's  
ambitious activities.

But I do fear that this suggestion:

>> Future
>> reflection on activism and hacker culture should therefore include
>> a deep study of the language and rhetoric of presenting conceptual
>> models and dynamics of networking.

will yield more arcane talk and less urgent action. Not that more  
talk is a bad thing per se, but I would argue that intellectuals have  
been obsessed with nomenclatures for decades now, whereas the heart  
of the matter (language as enacted worldview and indeed, as world) is  
technological not lexicological, mundane not obscure. It is far too  
easy to get caught up with rarified terms and definitions, which can  
be – and are –  argued to death, and thus fail to see what lies in  
front of our nose.

For example, John's suggestion that we make use of the term 'action  
set' suggests that by doing so we will have learned something new.  
But I would argue that many names are interchangeable in practice,  
whereas what is not interchangeable are the lived dynamics of people  
engaged in activism (or anything else for that matter). Whether you  
call a network an action set or a team or a movement or a mob or a  
community or a cell or anything else matters not a whit to that group  
when it is actually enacting its collective will.

Specialized language is for specialists, and is inherently exclusive.  
In my opinion plain language is preferable if one's goal is to  
understand and be understood, and especially if one hopes to effect  
meaningful change. (Although for very specialized situations  
specialized language may occasionally be required.)

Poetic language can do the trick too if it is worthy enough. ideally  
one's plainest language is also one's most poetic. I am reminded here  
of Muhammad Ali's statement when giving a commencement speech at  
Harvard. In response to the question: "What is your philosophy?" Ali  
replied with two words: "Me. We."

Now 'that'  is a deep study of the language and rhetoric of networking.


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