Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Progressive partisan election and reform politics are about getting best available candidates in office to serve as imperfect tools to solve shared problems and accomplish good governance in the service of sustainable equity as best as may be in the context of real stakeholder diversity. Partisan election and reform politics are not the whole of politics nor do they ever perfectly incarnate ideal politics -- given the indispensability of compromise and reform in the diverse shared world governed by politics this should go without saying -- and there is plenty of education, agitation, and organization beyond the legislation arising from partisan election and reform politics, shaping the legible terrain of the possible and the important on which partisan election and reform politics plays out. Given the unique historical moment when an historically unique world power is governed by a duopoly one party of which has gone palpably insane, partisan election and reform politics have taken on a special urgency frustrating to those of us whose radicalism can never find perfect expression in any nationally-viable organized instrument so diverse and compromised as the Democratic (or any other) Party happens to be. Anyway, though I don't think I am saying anything particularly original or insightful in saying these things, still there is a lot of forgetfulness and denial and resentment and useless rebelliousness occasioned by frustrations over these basic truths that leads to hurt feelings among sympathetic allies, charges of collaboration for good-faith compromises, self-indulgent exercises in purity cabaret, and so on -- none of which finally helps anybody clarify matters or get anywhere they really want to go. At the most affable and friendly and respectful end of such conversations, frustrating but necessary conversations I find, is this recent exchange in the Moot with long-time friend-of-blog "Lorraine" seemed worthy of upgrading into a post of its own...

"Lorraine" commented on my throwing shade at kindles yesterday:

Might I ask what is relatively inappropriate about Kindle technology? For me it's Digital Restrictions Mechanisms (DRM). You Clinton supporters tend to be pro-IP so I assume for you it's something else? I too have a large collection of bound volumes, but I've been exposing myself to classic (as in old enough to be out of copyright) works via the open source FB Reader app for Android.

I replied:

I wrote on Thursday, July 21, 2011:
When you finally toss your crappy Kindle in the trash because it cracked, or because of the expense, or because of the censorship, or because you grasp renting isn't owning a book, or because of all the ads you can't skip (and believe me, it's coming), don't pretend there wasn't somebody warning you and there isn't somebody laughing at you.
I have lots of reasons for preferring bound volumes to e-books, but you'll forgive me if I don't know whether they are reasons shared by the "You Clinton supporters" tribe or gang or species to which I now apparently belong to my misfortune. I missed the meeting in which kindles were discussed and so cannot say if I share the "tendencies" you so kindly ascribe to me on the subject because I preferred Clinton to the ill-prepared and rather vapid (in my view) Bernie Sanders in the primary and now prefer her to the authoritarian bigot idiot (in my view) Donald Trump in the general. I assign open source texts in my classes and have read many as well to my delight and edification -- do try not to think too terribly harshly of me as I serve my monstrous queen.
"Lorraine" responded:

I also found Sen. Sanders a bit vapid, at least on foreign policy. Much of the labor movement seems to have gone on a pro-IP bender (especially the Hollywood unions of course) if paid placements in Fecebook are any barometer. Probably unfair of me to ascribe such a tendency to Clintonistas in general. Clinton is, after all, nominally anti-TPP at this point history.

I continued:

I distrust Clinton's trade politics and my own anti-IP stance (my dissertation touched on these issues back in 05) is not where the Democratic Party seems to be landing. Clinton's always been more left than she gets credit for -- back in her husband's administration I considered her very much to his left -- and she's moved more left still lately in a sensible recognition of the way the wind is blowing through the Obama epoch, but I'm still to her left on trade (as so many) issues. The coziness of the Democratic Party to tech VC talkers worries me enormously as you may recall, indeed I regard this as one of the greatest threats to an emerging working real-left Democratic Party coalition in a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing America -- as the GOP immolates itself the many moneyed rats are likely to turn to the Dems and their present embrace of "tech-friendly" innovation/disruption/acceleration pieties provides a terribly friendly opening for reactionary mischief. This is a culture/discourse/rhetoric war, and one I am fighting in my teaching as well as my writing as you know. As for IP, I personally think fair use should be greatly expanded, copyright terms greatly truncated, and public subsidization of research and writing and culture should be the norm rather than the current chaotic and fraud-prone profiteering -- of course I disapprove libertechbrotarian strategies that sound as they approve something like these very ideals in order to rationalize shar(ecropp)ing feudalization of creative expressivity in the present and so I realize the politics are tricky here. I think the politics should focus on expanding public grants and long-term unemployment benefits and raising education salaries first to ensure that re-opening cultural commons does not amount to predation.

An enjoyable and wide-ranging conversation, of a kind that became harder and rarer during and since the primary contest I find, I do hope there are more to come...


Lorraine said...

I'm not particularly anti-IP. The current gold rush mentality surrounding IP absolutely disgusts me, but I suppose it was baked into the cake once computing capability trickled down to the consumer market. I'm fiercely anti-DRM. I could live with consumer electronics being an industry organized along entirely separate lines from the computer industry, in which products of the former come with tamper-evident seals and other we-don't-trust-you anti-features (sort of like Soviet radios lol) while the latter sells general purpose computers that can literally be programmed by their owners (imagine that). I'm a little worried that the equity-in-diversity crowd is increasingly baring its teeth toward hacker culture. One can see why if Julian Assange is the currently most visible exemplar of the latter. But I hope no one is out to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A few years ago it was "open source has a misogyny problem so let's use closed source." (Facepalm) There's the whole "intellectual property supports personal incomes" thing, which is true, but which is also something of a pyramid scheme...a creator doesn't make a little money without a syndicator making a lot of money, up the food chain to some kind of IP portfolio manager (probably a hedge fund manager or something).

Under "ideal market conditions" no intellectual property probably means no intellectual job descriptions, but public support for arts, sciences and even journalism seems a better way to go. Being a Detroiter, I get Canadian TV: News broadcasts on the government-supported CBC insult my intelligence for about 5 minutes of a typical hour; compare this with 60 minutes of a typical hour for ABC, CBS, NBC and even Boeing (PBS).

The principle of "that which cannot be monetized cannot be accomplished" is killing the blogosphere too, with the role formerly occupied by blogs going to slick and professional looking websites like which literally celebrate the degree to which they're dumbed down by including estimated reading times.

Dale Carrico said...


Chad Lott said...

It's pretty cool to have books and the Kindle (at least the app). Even though it's super clunky, you get access to library e-books and a lot of classics are free.

I love that you can simply tap the screen to define a word you don't know, and making notes is, from my perspective, way better on the Kindle than scribbling in the margins (though I enjoy that).

Whispersync (or whatever it's called) is neat, too. I can put the book down, turn the audiobook on where I left off, and then attend to whatever dreary chore needs doing. Then I can just pick the "book" back up when I'm done.

But yeah, when the ads come, I'll be happy to still have my dumb books.