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I began what seems to have become a weekly habit with a quotation from E.M. Forster “Only connect”. That’s what I do, or try to do, all of the time. I think I have been doing it all of my life. I realise that it can be a very irritating habit, but I don’t seem to be able to help it, and what is worse I’m now doing it in public.

 

In 2009 I wrote a paper for the GIGAnet meeting in Sharm el Sheikh which was accepted for presentation as a poster. The paper was based on Jose Ortega y Gasset’s  Revolt of the Masses which was published in 1934. The paper was never presented for several reasons. Ostensibly circumstances prevented me from having time to transform the content of the paper to a poster, at an objective level I wasn’t sure that I was using the right approach, and the real truth of the matter is that I had a really paralysing attack of – stage fright, nerves, sheer terror?

 

Now, two years later, I’m coming back to the GIGAnet paper with clarified ideas. My mistake was to look at “now” as being a new society. It isn’t. The society is the same as the one Ortega documented and commented on. The impetus of the evolution is the same – access to information. The difference is in the speed of travel not the direction of travel. And the acceleration comes from the Internet as catalyst, which facilitates but does not create.

 

One of the things that the Internet facilitates is consultation/participation which connects me back neatly to my title. Divide and rule! Disaggregate and achieve control! Caesar divided Gaul into three parts (I had to do Latin at school) Saint Lucia’s Nobel prize winning poet Derek Walcott refers to “Adam’s task, of giving things their names”. Labelling - which is how you divide - naming – this is how you come to control, you come to own. And sometimes this is good and sometimes this is not so good.

 

To return to Tim’s response, now several weeks ago – many of the things we imagine to be true of “the youth” – their views on privacy and intellectual property for example – are just that, imagination. I’m wondering how far “the youth” is also imagination. Youth is a window; the youth are those people who temporarily occupy that window. If you don’t happen to look through that particular window then all you see are people. I don’t much like individual labels. They make it too easy to create “us” and “them”. I prefer to stand in the middle of a Venn diagram, at the intersection of several different circles, any of which may change over time.

 

How do you feel about labels?

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