Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hacking the Honours

Honours probe police hacked No10 computers.

The conspiracist in me, up til now, was still prepared to think that this whole baloney could have been organised by the establishment: an exercise in proving to the electorate that "even politicians aren't above the law", yet coming out of it sans evidence, sans a sullied reputation. But perhaps, if measures such as these are being used, perhaps this is real.

But at the same time, to follow Baudrillard, perhaps it's what we knew all along anyway. That the establishment is corrupt is a "fact", believed in faith by a population which is decreasedly interested in politics - for that very reason. If something is found, sure there'll be a scandal, but no-one will really be surprised.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Progress of Power: Local Franchises

3 recent BBC stories neatly sum up the "progress" of power in the 21st century: that is, the franchise path, or what David Chandler [pdf] outlines neatly as "More participation, less democracy":
Central government, in fact, looks set to acquire greater regulatory control over local authorities, through the process of ‘empowering communities’.diversity and freedom in local government service delivery can only be reduced by the DETR focus on national auditability. ...

This is portrayed as a transfer of decision-making power away from the centre, yet, under the statutory duty of consultation and new policy frameworks, this will further undermine local authority autonomy through creating a
whole host of new centrally regulated monitoring regimes.
(p. 9)
So what have we seen already this year? The three that caught my eye were:Of these stories, two (the first and last) follow through on the trend for local implementation of national policy. The middle can be seen as a "prior" (yet also "post") stage, in which power is seized from a more decentralised base, extended into the realm of studied categorisation and problem-agenda-setting. (i.e. Categorise a field, rank the categories, create a problem.)

The first, ironically, can be said to be much of an embodied - almost tangible - symbol of Foucault's Discipline and Punish; the introduction of the test as a mechanism to "objectify" the individual or, in other words, make each individual the centre of their very own world which they are never fully in control of (quite the reverse, in fact). This can be seen most clearly in the BBC article here:
a more "transparent" form of testing
The question is: is it the testing that's being made more transparent, or is it the child?

Finally, the story on "decentralising" ASBOs follows Chandler's line exactly. That 'respect' is something that emerges from society and culture, rather than is scientifically defined by it, is now no longer part of the debate. it is clear from this agenda that the government would far prefer us to use their specified "tools" to solve a problem than to face the problem in and of itself. This is the franchising of power, the handing out of "toy" power which we have fooled ourselves into accepting.

Decentralisation that is "handed down" is not decentralisation - it is nothing but cheap labour for a government that no longer wants to see the local level. These "tools" we develop should be seen for what they are - bureaucratic cages that pander not to what solution is actually best, nor what causes should really be addressed, but to the needs of a government that sees a population purely as a workforce, as economic stimuli. Control must be maintained for, above all else, "competitive" purposes.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm telling, you're smelling

Ooh, one more, just for the quote:
School shock at vandal web video:

"Unfortunately, any yob or vandal can now have their 15 minutes of fame, aided and abetted by readily accessible technology and irresponsible internet sites which enable such behaviour to be glorified."
Ummmm. I'm telling Miss.

A few links to kick 2007 off

Happy New Machine Year! Some links from the last few days to ease us into 2007...

  • BBC on sousveillance and Saddam. Ironically, the article highlights a) how much propaganda is really involved in wars, and b) how "moderated" news channels really are, so I guess sousveillance (like most things) is double-edged. What it also gets at, without realising however, is that - I think - we also expect, as consumers, the news to be moderated. In one sense, we do not like to be shown the full gore of war and the hideousness of reality. We like to be shielded, protected, safe to hold our own views quite aside from reality. The BBC have avoided showing what you can see on the Internet (namely, Saddam's final moment). The truth - death - is never shown. The results are left in that blurry world of imagination and subjective interpretation. Remember, news is, above all, entertainment.

  • The Telegraph covered the US' deal to grab lots of British flight passengers' details including, "oddly", e-mail addresses and religious dietary requirements. Furthermore, it is clear that this information is to be used as keys, not an end in itself:
    While insisting that "additional information" would only be sought from lawful channels, the US made clear that it would use PNR data as a trigger for further inquiries.
    Should there be laws to make certain that whenever anyone accesses data belonging to an individual, the individual in question is told about it? Perhaps that way, at least, people would realise the extent to which "privacy" is, currently, just an illusion...

  • Finally, "the Wife" (not mine) over at NCOTAASD brings the potential closure of her local park to our attention. You can follow the timeline of closure here, but she makes the extremely salient point:
    We talk about saving the planet, but how can we hope to save the planet if we can't save a little local country park?

Enjoy your year.