When in February of 1894 Martial Bourdin blew to pieces next to the Greenwich Observatory the police and the media could only link it to the anarchist bombing campaign that was very much in vogue at the time but could not discern the true motive. They didn’t need it really, but the motives behind that death are still damn important and I think I can recognise them. This is a post about measuring things.
These few lines are a rapid-force re-write of an opinion piece I wrote for a student marketing conference dedicated to quantification in advertising. My thesis was that in our eagerness to quantify the totality of life we have caused immeasurable collateral damage. And that we fail to notice that damage because the cash register is blocking our view.
In Neil Postman’s Technopoly (that was a wikipedia link, here you can download the book) there’s a few words about how the invention of school grades in the eighteenth century has transformed the curriculum into preparations for a quiz. And more importantly how the competition it induced has reconfigured the nature of relations in the classroom and later in society.
Same goes for gamification … (ok, now I am certain that this software is not too bright –> it again autocorrected gamification to gasification even after I wrote a whole post about that. Or it is just being perfectly clear. Huh.)
Back to gamification — there’s a good O’Reilly manual called Building Web Reputation Systems by Randy Farmer and Bryce Glass that discusses this (download here). It is a well intentioned book for people that are creating circumstances for humans to congregate and communicate online. Among other things it offers a concept of competitive spectrum that is very useful here.
It shows how communities differ according to the motivation of their members and teaches the digital strategists how to avoid the errors that would make your online product useless or harmful. You could also call this the Ayn Rand trap. In my view the large majority of people that are bringing us the brave new world of startups are completely oblivious to this. Thus, since the whole online game is dictated by numbers (and outside state surveillance the advertising is the only business model in town) we are now marinated in a digital sphere that is modifying our social relations in direction of the Ayn Rand trap.
One other way to put it is that The internet was capitalism’s Tom Sawyer white fence (thought of putting that on a t.shirt as a light conversation starter). By the way, this whole deal is not even a secret, look:
My personal reaction to the de-evolution of our digital utopia is to maintain the position of an Individual Lobbyist Anarchist that smuggles values in otherwise perfectly normal digital projects. It takes a bit of extra reading and dedication but it is the only constructive way to participate in society. There I said it.
As for our Marital Bourdin I like to think that he was doing a net.art piece where the symbolism of blowing up the zero meridian was a very timely and shrewd opposition to the first signs of globalisation. So he’s a hero.
One more hero was Antonio Caronia. Sadly, I have never met the man and have only learned of his existence from the Janša movie. What counts in life of a person is what you do for other people and in the case of Caronia we have something large to measure. I know because I saw the AR monument to Caronia done by Guido Segni. In the Janša clip trove I found several shorts by professor Caronia that are working fine with the idea of individual lobbying anarchism: