Orwellian future it depends on you

While most of society seems to have swung in a different direction. We seem to be more subdued by hedonism and triviality but none the less it is important to remember we are never far from this final warning from Orwell, and in particular “…don’t let it happen. It depends on you”.

This is a dramatization from the BBC documentary Orwell: A Life in Pictures. In the film’s final dramatized scene (complete film here), the re-created Orwell himself makes the following ominous prediction:

Allowing for the book, after all, being a parody, something like 1984 could actually happen. This is the direction the world is going in at the present time. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. The sex instinct will be eradicated. We shall abolish the orgasm. There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. But always there will be the intoxication of power. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who’s helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don’t let it happen. It depends on you.

Via Open Culture

Fifteen minutes

In 1968 Andy Warhol launched the idea that: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Later in 1979 Warhol restated his idea with the words: “…my prediction from the sixties finally came true: In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”

Yesterday my colleague Dr Dick posted this amazing quote on Facebook:

In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes.

With a little googling I found the origins of the quote come from the great street artist Banksy – here is a picture from one of his exhibitions.

This was a brilliant twist on the classic Warhol idea. Today everyone is striving for fame in a way that has never been done before. If we then add the death of privacy both the voluntary and the semi-voluntary. We voluntarily give away our privacy through blogs, twitter and facebook (and tons of other web2.0 applications). Then we semi-voluntarily give away too much information through our dependence upon technology.

Through all this loss of privacy the question is no longer one of fame or recognition. The question is if we in the future can have any privacy at all. So in the same way as Warhol in the sixties surprised (or even shocked?) people by claiming people would have fame the question today is more relevant whether we will have privacy.

Fifteen minutes of privacy is an important question to be thought about considering the way in which or society is moving.

The future of Wikipedia

It’s almost hard to think of a time when Wikimedia was not the source of all knowledge. After having survived the quality wars (is Wiki as good as printed Encyclopedia), amazing growth, lawsuits & legal threats, internal squabbles and international expansion – today Wikimedia seems as permanent and natural as summer holidays.

But Ed Chi at the Palo Alto Research Center is interviewed by New Scientist:

The number of articles added per month flattened out at 60,000 in 2006 and has since declined by around a third. They also found that the number of edits made every month and the number of active editors both stopped growing the following year, flattening out at around 5.5 million and 750,000 respectively. (read more on this here)

The Wikimedia Foundation has bagun a strategic review of Wikipedia to better understand why the changes to Wikipedia are occurring. Chi argues that a main part of the problem is the growing number of Wikimedia “experts”, in other words people who are experts on Wikipedia. They become a problem since experts on a specific topic are unable to compete with wiki-experts time and expertise in an eventual debate. I have commented earlier on the inclusionists v deletionists issue.

Chi thinks that Wikipedia now includes so much information that some editors have turned from creating new articles to improving existing ones, resulting in more disputes about edits. Such disputes are not a level playing field because established editors sometimes draw on extensive knowledge of Wikipedia’s guidelines to overwhelm opposition in a practice dubbed “wikilawyering”.

In part some of the more devoted editors of wikipedia (wikipedia experts) are becoming more fascinated with wikipedia, as opposed to the content. The whole point of wikipedia should be it’s ability to easily provide information (preferably expert information) but as many discussion pages show – content is not king. Wikilawyering is definately discouraging participation by experts.

The future of street art

A Banksy murial on Portobello road was sold on ebay for £208,100 (approx. $400,000) the price did not include removal costs. The wall belonged to Luti Fagbenle who felt that he could not “really justify owning a piece of art worth as much as it is.”

The Banksy mural on Portobello road

(Photo by Cactusbones) (CC by-nc-sa)

Street art has been growing for a long time and Banksy must be seen as one of the most widely known artists in the genre. But he is not alone. As Art Threat reports the world’s first Urban Art auction at Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers will be held on February 5th.

What does this mean for the future of Street Art? Art Threat has written an interesting comment on street arts ephemeral nature as an important feature and Banksy has added a comment on the his webpage:

“Aren’t street art auctions a bit lame?
I don’t agree with auction houses selling street art – its undemocratic, it glorifies greed and I never see any of the money.”

So the artists don’t get paid and the artwork is ripped, literally sometimes, out of their context – how will this effect the art? Previously the most exploitative use of graffiti has been street art photo books. These products raise exciting questions about copyright and graffiti (blogged about this issue earlier here and here) but selling the works raises other exciting questions.

The person buying the work will most probably remove it to display it elsewhere. This de-contextualizes of the art but it also adds a disincentive to the artist. Now it is not enough to know that your work will be painted over but it may also be removed and sold to enrich someone else. Your work may become a commodity to be regularly bought and sold without the artists control or permission. Should the artists be concerned?

(Story on BBC & Observer)