Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 5th, 2012

Select your faith: As easy as ABC by Michael B. Larson?

Michael B. Larson has proposed a funny religious affiliation taxonomy. This flowchart is very traditional and cannot convey the diversity of faiths (religious, natural, ideological, social…).  First study the funny flowchart at the end before reading my comments:

1. Faiths are initially related to community “gastronomical customs” in food ingredients, cooking methods, fiesta ceremonies, intake of alcohol consumption.  Instead of starting with God, let us begin with the varieties of diet programs: Vegan, Vegetarian (excluding fish but including products that do not involve killing the living beings, like milk, honey…), strictly carnivorous, mixed (flesh-eating and vegetarian),  strictly herbs, Halal killing, “who cares how killed”…

We expand the base to include the beverages permitted for consumption (wine, beer, whiskey, frsh water, boiled water, lukewarm water…)  You’ll realize that this first cut will result in about the same results as in the flowchart, with an added bonus of automatic expanded detailed discrimination among the religious and sect beliefs.

2. Community structure and system of organization and sex customs (polygamy, monogamy, patriarchal, matriarchal…): Tribal, rural, urban, caste system, theocratic, oligarchic…Religions transformed over the ages to account for what communities feel more comfortable with revised customs and power “reforms”…

3. The handed down prophets and religious leaders: If you study the civil wars and “religious wars“, you realize that calamities are generated among sects (within a general religion and among specific sects of different religions).  The wars were not for “believing” in one God, several gods, or not believing in any gods…Religious sects are formed around charismatic leaders:  The members are willing to die for this leader but not for any abstract god…

4. Every monolithic religion created its arrays of specialized gods, of double gods, trinity, and several: They always reverted to tacit polytheism, one way or another, for political exigencies and converting the majority of the more natural multi-gods specialized trade and business systems of conviction…Pictures of gods and prophets might be prohibited in public places, but never within homes: People “pray” more frequently in front of a “material” picture, preferably a beautiful and colorful picture of their preferred Saint, martyr…Candlelight offer a more romantic climate for devotion, particularly bonfires…

5. Religion and sects can be differentiated according to weather conditions: Mostly desert region, high plateau, mostly cold, mostly equatorial, mostly rich in water, mostly arid…The environment is master: Living conditions takes precedence over abstract notions that do not fit the environment…

6.  Can you buy this concept of reincarnation when a sect opt for strictly incinerating the dead body? Since antiquity, fallen soldiers in any war were burned for practical reasons, before health consequences were fully understood.  If the dead body is not to follow nature processes of decaying and being devoured by the little insects, how can you claim incarnation?  Anyway, the creation of hell, heaven, and something else in between, has transcended the abstract notion of belief in incarnation into very detailed physical environment of fresh potable rivers (of water, wine, beer, juices…), delicious fruits, beautiful virgins…

It is obvious that the facts are terribly depressing, and religions extend a grain of hope  to keeping the communities from disintegrating in nihilist activities… trampled laws and orders out of controlled could lead to civil wars …

Mankind quest for the Absolute has always survived Temples and religion. Actually, religions exist simply because mankind yearn for the Absolute, uncontaminated by the miseries and shortcomings of reality

Note 1:


Note 2: I had no idea that Mormon consider underwear to have magical effects: Can any sane person deny this most important factor? Once, a group of very beautiful and exquisitely shaped Mormon  girls were dispatched to campus to proselytize a fundamentally “eugenics ideology”, as is the case with all cults. One of these beauties convinced me to quit smoking for just two weeks.

I kept my promise for the duration: The urge for smoking didn’t subside as she claimed and I quickly reverted to my bad habits. If I knew about this “magical stuff” I would have sold my soul for a peek.

In any case, a sect that allow males to marry up to 9 wives is obviously NOT a matriarchal community, and sex is done in the dark, so that the “magical underwear” do not confuse the hard working males into illicit temptations…?

Underwear, specifically female colorful underwear, should not be part of religious beliefs since this attraction is common to all people.  A religion is essentially created to savagely fight against another religion and not to finding common denominators among customs and traditions…

Note 3: It comes to no surprise that Jehovah Witness do not find underwear that” magical”:  They are as boring as their talks…Can you imagine people believing that an Old Book, translated and re-translated, is the word of God and should not be interpreted?  They believe stories of scores of people living to be 900 years, and totally illiterate people (disciples) to have written testaments with their own hand at age of 100…

Has social media already changed history for the 5th time? What Clay Shirky had to say?

Nothing like telling a couple of stories to illustrate how media landscape was transformed? How innovation is happening everywhere, and moving from one spot to another?  Are we witnessing the largest increase in expressive capability in human history? Does a media that is good at creating conversations is no good at creating groups? And does the media that’s good at creating groups is no good at creating conversations?

First Story: In the voting booth…

Suppose it is election time, and citizens are dubious of frauds, biased handling of the voting booth, there might be voter suppressions… One of Clay Shirky daydream projects goes as follows: ” A plan came up to video the vote. And the idea was that individual citizens with phones capable of taking photos or making video would document their polling places, on the lookout for any kind of voter suppression techniques, and would upload this to a central place. And that this would operate as a kind of citizen observation:  The citizens would not be there just to cast individual votes, but also to help ensure the sanctity of the vote overall. What matters here isn’t technical capital: its social capital”.

First big media change:  Many-to-many pattern conversation. 

The tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. It isn’t when the shiny new tools show up that their uses start permeating society. It’s when everybody is able to take them for granted. Because now that media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people can take for granted the idea that we’re all in this together.

Clay recounts the 4 periods that media changed history enough to qualify for the label “revolution” in the last 500 years:

1. The first one is the printing press: movable type, oil-based inks, that whole complex of innovations that made printing possible and turned Europe upside-down, starting in the middle of the 1400s.

2. A couple of hundred years ago, there was innovation in two-way communication, conversational media: first the telegraph, then the telephone. Slow, text-based conversations, then real-time voice based conversations.

3. About 150 years ago, there was a revolution in recorded media other than print: first photos, recorded sound, movies, all encoded onto physical objects.

4. About 100 years ago, the harnessing of electromagnetic spectrum to send sound and images through the air, radio and television. This is the media landscape as we knew it in the 20th century.

There is a curious asymmetry here. The media that is good at creating conversations is no good at creating groups. And the media that’s good at creating groups is no good at creating conversations.

Clay resumes: “If you want to have a conversation in this world, you have it with one other person. If you want to address a group, you get the same message and you give it to everybody in the group,whether you’re doing that with a broadcasting tower or a printing press. That was the media landscape as we had it in the twentieth century. And this is what changed.

This thing that looks like a peacock hitting a windscreen is Bill Cheswick’s map of the Internet. Cheswick traces the edges of the individual networks and then color codes them. The Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time.

The phone gave us the one-to-one pattern, and television, radio, magazines, books… gave us the one-to-many pattern.  The Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern; a media natively good at supporting these kinds of conversations. That’s one of the big changes.

The second big media change:  Every medium is right next door to every other medium 

As all media gets digitized, the Internet also becomes the mode of carriage for all other media:  Phone calls migrate to the Internet, magazines migrate to the Internet, movies migrate to the Internet.  Put another way, media is increasingly less just a source of information, and it is increasingly more a site of coordination.  Groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well.

The third big media change: Audience can be producers and not just  consumers.

Every time a new consumer joins this media landscape, a new producer joins as well, because the same equipment — phones, computers — let you consume and produce. It’s as if, when you bought a book, they threw in the printing press for free.  It’s like you had a phone that could turn into a radio if you pressed the right buttons.

And it’s not just Internet or no Internet. We’ve had the Internet in its public form for almost 20 years now, and it’s still changing as the media becomes more social. It’s still changing patterns even among groups who know how to deal with the Internet well.

Second story: China Earthquake and Obama campaign…

Last May, China in the Sichuan province had a 7.9 magnitude earthquake.  Massive destruction in a wide area, as the Richter Scale has it. And the earthquake was reported as it was happening. People were texting from their phones. They were taking photos of buildings.They were taking videos of buildings shaking. They were uploading it to QQ, China’s largest Internet service. They were Twittering it.

As the quake was happening, the news was reported. And because of the social connections, Chinese students coming elsewhere, and going to school, or businesses in the rest of the world opening offices in China — there were people listening all over the world, hearing this news. The BBC got their first wind of the Chinese quake from Twitter.Twitter announced the existence of the quake several minutes before the US Geological Survey had anything up online for anybody to read.

The last time China had a quake of that magnitude it took them three months to admit that it had happened.

China authorities might have liked to have done that here, rather than seeing these pictures go up online. But they weren’t given that choice, because their own citizens beat them to the punch. Even the government learned of the earthquake from their own citizens, rather than from the Xinhua News Agency. And this stuff rippled like wildfire.

For a while, there the top 10 most clicked links on Twitter (the global short messaging service)  nine of the top 10 links were about the quake. People collating information, pointing people to news sources,pointing people to the US geological survey. The 10th one was kittens on a treadmill, but that’s the Internet for you.

But nine of the 10 in those first hours. And within half a day donation sites were up, and donations were pouring in from all around the world. This was an incredible, coordinated global response. And the Chinese, in one of their periods of media openness, decided that they were going to let it go, that they were going to let this citizen reporting fly. And then this happened.

People began to figure out, in the Sichuan Provence, that the reason so many school buildings had collapsed during this school day,  is that corrupt officials had taken bribes to allow those building to be built to less than code. And so they started, the citizen journalists started reporting that as well. And there was an incredible picture.

You may have seen this picture on the front page of the New York Times. A local official literally prostrated himself in the street, in front of these protesters, in order to get them to go away. Essentially to say: “We will do anything to placate you, just please stop protesting in public.”

But these are people who have been radicalized:  thanks to the one child policy, they have lost everyone in their next generation. Someone who has seen the death of a single child now has nothing to lose. And so the protest kept going. And finally the Chinese cracked down. That was enough of citizen media. And so they began to arrest the protesters. They began to shut down the media that the protests were happening on.

China is probably the most successful manager of Internet censorship in the world, using something that is widely described as the Great Firewall of China. And the Great Firewall of China is a set of observation points that assume four parameters:

1. that media is produced by professionals;

2. it mostly comes in from the outside world;

3.  it comes in relatively sparse chunks, and

4. it comes in relatively slowly.

And because of those four characteristics they are able to filter it as it comes into the country. But like the Maginot Linethe great firewall of China was facing in the wrong direction for this challenge, because not one of those four things was true in this environment. The media were produced locally. It was produced by amateurs. It was produced quickly. And it was produced at such an incredible abundance that there was no way to filter it as it appeared. 

And so now the Chinese government, who for a dozen years, has quite successfully filtered the web, is now in the position of having to decide whether to allow or shut down entire services, because the transformation to amateur media is so enormous that they can’t deal with it any other way.

And in fact that is happening this week. On the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen they just, two days ago, announced that they were simply shutting down access to Twitter, because there was no way to filter it other than that. They had to turn the spigot entirely off. Now these changes don’t just affect people who want to censor messages. They also affect people who want to send messages because this is really a transformation of the ecosystem as a whole, not just a particular strategy.

The classic media problem, from the 20th century is, how does an organization have a message that they want to get out to a group of people distributed at the edges of a network. What was the twentieth century answer? Bundle up the message. Send the same message to everybody. National message. Targeted individuals. Relatively sparse number of producers. Very expensive to do, so there is not a lot of competition. This is how you reach people. All of that is over.

We are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap. Now most organizations that are trying to send messages to the outside world, to the distributed collection of the audience, are now used to this change. The audience can talk back. And that’s a little freaky. But you can get used to it after a while, as people do.

But that’s not the really crazy change that we’re living in the middle of. The really crazy change is here: it’s the fact that they are no longer disconnected from each other, the fact that former consumers are now producers, the fact that the audience can talk directly to one another; because there is a lot more amateurs than professionals,and because the size of the network, the complexity of the network is actually the square of the number of participants, meaning that the network, when it grows large, grows very, very large.

As recently at last decade, most of the media that was available for public consumption was produced by professionals. Those days are over, never to return. It is the green lines now, that are the source of the free content, which brings me to my last story. We saw some of the most imaginative use of social media during the Obama campaign.

For example, in the Obama campaign they put up,  And millions of citizens rushed in to participate, and to try to figure out how to help. An incredible conversation sprung up there. And then, this time last year, Obama announced that he was going to change his vote on FISA, The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Obama had said, in January, that he would not sign a bill that granted telecom immunity for possibly warrantless spying on American persons. By the summer, in the middle of the general campaign, Obama said: “I’ve thought about the issue more. I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to vote for this bill.” And many of his own supporters on his own site went very publicly berserk.

It was Senator Obama when they created it. They changed the name later. “Please get FISA right.” Within days of this group being created, it was the fastest growing group on; within weeks of its being created it was the largest group. Obama had to issue a press release. He had to issue a reply. And he said essentially “I have considered the issue. I understand where you are coming from. But having considered it all, I’m still going to vote the way I’m going to vote. But I wanted to reach out to you and say, I understand that you disagree with me, and I’m going to take my lumps on this one.”

This didn’t please anybody. But then a funny thing happened in the conversation. People in that group realized that Obama had never shut them down. Nobody in the Obama campaign had ever tried to hide the group or make it harder to join, to deny its existence, to delete it, to take to off the site. They had understood that their role with was to convene their supporters but not to control their supporters.

And that is the kind of discipline that it takes to make really mature use of this media. Media, the media landscape that we knew, as familiar as it was, as easy conceptually as it was to deal with the idea that professionals broadcast messages to amateurs, is increasingly slipping away.

In a world where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap, in a world of media where the former audience are now increasingly full participants, in that world, media is less and less often about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals. It is more and more often a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.

And the choice we face, I mean anybody who has a message they want to have heard anywhere in the world, isn’t whether or not that is the media environment we want to operate in. That’s the media environment we’ve got. The question we all face now is, “How can we make best use of this media? Even though it means changing the way we’ve always done it.”




January 2012

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