The “S” Factor

by Lorne Mitchell on 11/09/2010

Here is the “warm-up” speech I gave at the Next Gen Roadshow in Edinburgh earlier this week. Enjoy!

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1 cyberdoyle September 11, 2010 at 11:40

Excellent presentation, Sympathy, synergy and synthesis. Collaboration is key, and the cuts Geddes would have made need to be made by us. Working together. Cut out the BS. Lets Just Do IT. For the Next Generation.
chris

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2 Lorne Mitchell September 11, 2010 at 12:53

Thanks, Chris. Not sure that Geddes would have made the cuts. I think he would simply have looked at the problem in a different way. The refreshing thing is that the Digital Scotland Interim report has identified the key issues and has taken the debate up a level to connect Next Gen Broadband to the benefits to society and community in a way I have not so far seen in the (south-of-the-border) England debate. With next week’s conference in Cumbria (which I won’t be at, unfortunately), I think we will see tremendous “innovation from the North” as remote communities say “enough is enough”. The main question for me is how do we harness this new-found energy that rather than have the wind taken out of the sails of community-based enthusiasm by technocrats and the vested commercial interests of the incumbent ISPs.

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3 angus September 11, 2010 at 15:22

The way you link the present to the past makes the presentation highly engaging. Certainly the strategies that drove British imperial expansion at the end of the nineteenth century are not so different to the factors propelling corporations and governments today. Look at William Hague’s recent inaugural lectures at the FCO. The fact that Geddes was a botanist is not so strange. Since the eighteenth century, interest in economic botany had become a principal driver of the European scramble for territorial control. The English language may have served as an instrument of conquest and control, but so too had the language of botany. Linnaen classification and the identification and naming of plants led from initial exploration by scientists and ‘experts’ to the violent ‘penetration’ of the most inaccessible regions of the world by adventurers and entrepreneurs. Botany and empire were inextricably linked, they still are. The modern world might have benefitted from the blind extraction of natural products but ‘progress’ ultimately brought annihilation to millions of people and devastation to vast regions of the world. Modernity forgets this.

The Outlook Tower is an extraoridnary concept, with is echoed in more contemporary claims for experiential learning. The building reminds me of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design for more efficient prisons, and the seach for total surveillance: seeing everyting from a single viewpoint. This idea has obvious resonances in a discussion about Broadband and information technology.

While technology is able to improve productivity, efficiency, competitiveness and all the other matters that concern businesses around the world: is this really what the world wants? Will faster broadband deliver on the two most important problems facing us: social injustice and diminishing levels of individual and societal well-being.

While the intention of so much Victorian social planning has much to recommend it, caution should be adopted when applying such strategies without recognising the structures of domination, disempowerment lying behind the ethos.

This is my postcolonial view!! Thanks for reminding me about Geddes. I remember reading about him years go in something by Lewis Mumford. You talk has inspired me to look at him again.

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