Tag Archives: Politics

Mass Localism?

Last month Nesta published its report  “Mass Localism”, which builds on an emerging theme in political and activist circles. Last year John Denham led the charge with “Making Local the Answer” lecture at the RSA, ironically saying after 10 years plus of centralisation “local” is the big idea…

The Nesta report is OK, wishful thinking in places and idealistic perhaps but the application of community led approaches to achieve sustainability goals (“The Big Green Challenge”) may have some lessons for a cash strapped public sector who need to allocate limited funds (but perhaps lets not call it a “challenge” or competition).  It also suggests that the local angle can be delivered in poorer communities as well as the more affluent, where active village leaders are thought to be much easier to find.

Expect to hear a lot of buzzwords like localism and communities over the next four weeks of electioneering, but probably less and less after one of the parties actually gets elected.  The Conservatives are speaking about “big society” instead of “big state” and want to recruit 5,000 “community organisers”, with a new role for government ( “no role for government”  is not what David Cameron is telling the Guardian readership, who unsurprisingly don’t appear to believe him).

But I always thought that centralising and controlling is the default political mode (just see episode 16, “The Challenge” of YesMinister  for a masterful exposition of the ground rules by Sir Humphrey). For my part I am looking to see what the new neighbourhood business model will be when we want to deliver HS2 – perhaps 263 separate sections of track autonomously funded, built and managed by enthusiasts?

So what is the risk?

From the Digital Life, Design 2009 conference I found this video of a discussion with Daniel Kahneman (2002 Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences) and Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan”). In “Reflections on a Crisis” they explore how economic behaviours, bias and risk taking got us to where we are in the global recession and how counter-intuitive actions may help us recover.

DLD is not a conference that I was too aware of until recently, but with the benefit of offering all their sessions on video we can all get the benefits without a trip to Munich (although I may be making the case for a ticket to next years event!). Other speakers videos this year well worth watching include Dan Airely (of course!), David Weinberger “Knowledge in the Age of Abundance” , Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook growth and where next and a panel on Internet Politics in the age of the first “Internet President”.

Standup economist

Avoiding work constructively and so enjoyed some old clips from Yoram Bauman, PHD and the self styled world’s first “standup economist”- although a little theoretical knowledge might help in crossing over the humour barrier for mere mortals (or neo Keynesians).

Recent gigs at Chartered Financial Analyists local meetings… World tour promised, the LSE should book him now.

He was also on PBS today (which why I checked out his YouTube back catalogue, in a long tail sort of way) and in a relatively straight interview, surprise, surprise, he got asked about the recession – almost missed the reference to Black Swans, though.

Deja Vu

Its all about timing…

Last night I watched the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young DVD “Deja Vu“, recording their 2006 tour and specifically the anti war protests that divided audiences across the States. The mixed reaction to the song “Let’s Impeach the President” is instructive – surely fans going to a gig by the band that wrote “Ohio” shouldn’t be surprised by 4 old hippies still having liberal views? 

What a difference a week makes – suddenly all the references to Bush, Cheney, Rice, etc. seem so retro.

However the excellent Neil Young blog/website “Living with War Today” is hardly going to cease to function overnight and rightly Neil has said it will stay until the war is over.  How many other 60’s figures are relevant in music, culture and politics 40 years later? His interviews in the film were typical, slightly grumpy, but clear on the messages and commitment. Also watched the “Don’t be Denied” Young documentary on BBC, now off to find my copies of “Tonight’s the Night” and “On the Beach” – forgot how good they were/are.

American Dreams – semiotics and the last word on Obama

And now the hangover, but perhaps first a short walk through the values and meanings of Obama in the context of the “new” American Dream… using cultural theory to analyse and develop brands (or Presidents).

Please have a look at all of the Greg Rowland Semiotics presentation, (don’t be put off by the semiotics tag) but particularly the slides from 38 onwards about Obama – a cool calm intellectual treated to cool calm intellectual analysis;

  • Obama represents a new evolving topography of hope and desire for the American Dream – bringing disparate pieces together into a promising future
  • By choosing Obama the US is electing to look into the mirror that is the reflection of the present, rather than searching for our reflection in the past

And…

  • Obama is the story of a fractured progressive narrative, pointing towards a new paradigm in the expression of the US dream
  • The American dream is at its most powerful during moments of chaos (as we resort to escapism for comfort — fantasy industries,such as entertainment, soar during periods of economic distress)
  • While McCain’s version of the American Dream was a familiar, yet antiquated one of small town America, Obama projected the dream through a fragmented post-modern lens of real and abstract hope

Thanks to Mark Earls for the link