Smari McCarthy on freedom

From a great resource on P2P infrastructure, linked by @sleslie:

Freedom requires infrastructure.

A man who has no tools to acquire his necessities of life is a slave to his necessities. Given those tools, he becomes a slave to the labour required to fruitfully use them. Only by transcending each difficulty as it comes, in a process not dissimilar to metasystem transitions, can the individual achieve freedom.

Similarly, if at any point the individual becomes removed from the infrastructure that allows him any of the previous metasystem transitions, then he becomes a slave to those who control that infrastructure.

  • Smari McCarthy, FCF Discussion, February 2011

When we are using an endless list of provided infrastructure, magical clouds, startup services, and things we can’t possibly have any individual control over, how is our freedom impaired?


>Of course, the same society now said to be undergoing a computer revolution has long since gotten used to “revolutions” in laundry detergents, underarm deodorants, floor waxes, and other consumer products. Exhausted in Madison Avenue advertising slogans, the image had lost much of its punch.

– Langdon Winner. The Whale and the Reactor. 1986.

Reform and revolution

>”Appropriate technologists were unwilling to face squarely the facts of organized social and political power. Fascinated by dreams of a spontaneous, grass-roots revolution, they avoided any deep-seeking analysis of the institutions that control the direction of technological and economic development. In this happy self-confidence they did not bother to devise strategies that might have helped them overcome obvious sources of resistance. The same judgement that Marx and Engels passed on the utopians of the nineteenth century apply just as well to the appropriate technologists of the 1970s: they were lovely visionaries, naive about the forces that contained them.”

– Langdon Winner, The Whale and the Reactor. 1986.

Edupunks are modern-day Appropriate Technologists.How do we prevent the edupunk movement from following the same fate as the Appropriate Technology movement of the 70’s and 80’s?

**update**: My initial note relating the AT movement with Edupunk wasn’t really thought through, and seems to have pissed offstruck a nerve with a few people. It definitely wasn’t meant as an insult or potshot or anything like that, but that phrase popped into my head as I read the passage. Maybe a better wording would have been as a question, as modified above…


>…the Empire of Mediocrity (is) successfully spreading its tentacles everywhere.
>Anthony Bourdain. Medium Raw.

This scares the shit out of me. This is why the media/communication landscape is shifting so rapidly. It’s the Empire of Mediocrity, not anything about information wanting to be free. The Market is speaking. It wants mediocrity. Blandness. Unthinking familiarity. It’s not about The Shallows or anything like that. It is about the selection and reinforcement of brainlessness by the masses.

Dewey on educative power

All communication is like art. It may fairly be said, therefore, that any social arrangement that remains vitally social, or vitally shared, is educative to those who participate in it. Only when it becomes cast in a mold and runs in a routine way does it lose its educative power.

– John Dewey, Democracy and Education

I wonder what Dewey would have thought of the LMS…

Dewey on society

Persons do not become a society by living in physical proximity, any more than a man ceases to be socially influenced by being so many feet or miles removed from others. A book or a letter may institute a more intimate association between human beings separated thousands of miles from each other than exists between dwellers under the same roof.

– John Dewey, 1916, Democracy and Education

The quote is almost 100 years old. I wonder what Dewey would have thought about the Internet, email, IM, blogs, and tweets…