Returning home to a semblance of normality from a journey that rattles one’s bones takes very a long time indeed. In fact, I was in a Fitzroy bar the other night and a nice young chap, who claimed to be an expert on these things, suggested that it would take two years! It has been a year and a half since I got off my cherished 125cc moto, so I am almost ‘there’ I suppose, whatever ‘there’ means.
The main problem with integrating back into Modernista society after a monumental break is that one becomes a messenger, an outsider, an intruder and a stranger. One’s identity changes greatly through the serious engagement with the world and people find it difficult to accept your new hard-won identity as you do theirs. Many people not only fear the world and its people but they also fear those who have had the courage to engage with it on their own terms.
Whilst walking to a cafe for lunch the other day, waiting for the autocratic pedestrian crossing to signal approval, I overheard a rotund, flustered man mumbling about an altercation with a colleague over an office tea-bag. I thought to myself, ‘why does this man exist?’ ‘I wish he would disobey the authority of the pedestrian crossing and suffer at the hands of Modernism’.
It has been a very tough year and a half and along with many people, my global soul has taken a beating. There are a lot of people out there with weak identities who demonise others and aggressively cling to the most reductive and imaginary things at the expense of others. I hope that I haven’t been the beneficiary of a golden age of independent travel and from here on in it is “us and them over and over and over again”.
It goes without saying that the National Broadband Network (NBN) – regardless of who steers the rest of the build – is a major infrastructure project for Australia. And we all know its cost, technical configuration, corporate configuration, end-user value-proposition, economic benefit, social benefit and roll-out pace have all been subject to claim and counterclaim.
But what do the people who will actually be using it think?
Over the past year our team from the University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology have followed the progress of the debate (link to article in the Conversation)
This is a project in which I was involved over the weekend at GovHack (in Melbourne). It was a really good event. The two guys in the video did all the hard work; I was the story teller (and was at a wedding most of the weekend whilst they did all the coding).
Here is the Liberal Party of Australia’s NBN policy (link). The policy promises that the NBN will be built more cheaply and more quickly, but the down-side is that it is also an inferior solution. The main contention is that the Conservatives will not offer fiber to the premises and will keep the existing copper network. Fiber to the premises will only be offered in new housing developments and copper to the premises will be kept when it already exists. The problem here is that if your house is a long way from an exchange, then the NBN Internet connection will be slower (as is the case today).
Here is a paper that I co-authored for the Institute for Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) here at the University of Melbourne.
The Political Issues Analysis System (PIAS) project sought to investigate how citizens in Melbourne, Australia used the Internet to seek political information about key political issues. It also sought to understand how citizens contacted their elected representative about these issues. Through workshops, case studies, and the development and testing of a prototype, the research uncovered some notable trends in terms of engagement with components of the formal political system online”.
” 20 years ago, set the agenda for far-reaching transformations in the political sphere, in economies everywhere, in social interaction, even in concepts of our own identity. And Berners-Lee succeeded in doing so for one reason: he released the technology for free. This simple decision, taken by a computer scientist used to work in environments that promoted openness and transparency eclipses any hype about subsequent Twitter revolutions, Facebook campaigns or political protests ascribed to the platform since (link to the story in the Guardian by Aleks Krotoski)”
This story by Aleks Krotoski is OK, if not a little dated. There are lots of links on this blog about the use of the web for political purposes dating back about a decade. But I do like the way in which Krotoski (from the BBC series on the history of the internet) highlights the importance of free, open infrastructure for everyone. How lucky Australians are to have such a large public investment in a national Broadband network and such solid investment in the broader eResearch agenda (soon to include the humanities I hope!)