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Mass Effect: New Media Lemmings?

While watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, I came across this dialogue in Episode 24 between Motoko Kusanagi and Kuze, where Kuze explains the manipulation of the masses due to the prevalence of information via the Internet. In it, he explains in rather far fetched terms, how he intends to save them all from such a demise by fully merging with the Net.

This notion of manipulation due to a lack of media and technological literacy is also perpetuated by Cass Sunstein’s analysis of the so-called “free net” in this article: “The Internet is Making Us Stupid

While Kuze’s solution is closer to the realm of science fiction, I do think he raises valid points about how most of us are using the Internet and Technology today. In no uncertain terms, everything is a large goop of grey with no real opinions, apart from those whom we follow.

To be literate, is to understand what is happening around us, and having an opinion so that we can continue to make sense of this world that we live in. But information has changed from a prized resource into a cheapened commodity. Sure there is wisdom of the crowds, but in some aspects, we’re also facing mob mentality without really understanding why.

I suppose that’s what gotten Senior Minister of State (Information, Communications and the Arts) going apeshit over the reactions of netizens, professing disdain at our apparent lack of self-regulation.

But he does not understand that changes do not happen overnight. People conveying different thinking on the Net should not mean that we are lawless citizens, but the Singapore Government should re-look at how some of its policies really aren’t that popular or even beneficial to Singapore’s citizens. If anything, they should be glad that feedback is actually given and that they do not have a colony of lemmings. Oh wait, maybe that’s why they aren’t glad.

But as you will see from the dialogue below, if the masses begin to dig past the surface of information, and make meaning of the information they consume, interpret it in such a way that adds value to our cultures and societies, information will not be cheapened, and a much higher calling becomes clearer. For now, information is merely passed from contact to contact, but how does that affect us if we don’t start thinking for ourselves?

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Kuze: “I went on a journey, just because I wanted time to reaffirm my motives, and to see whether I could execute the revolution or liberation that I had envisioned.”

Motoko: “What is this revolution you speak of?”

Kuze: “The transfer of people to a higher structure. What this means is that people should discard their rigid system, and unite with the Net.”

Motoko: “Unite with the Net?”

Kuze: “Due to the incident on the Peninsula, I began to look at life philosophically. I found a paradoxical order, exploitation by the strong, and corrupt structure. What disappointed me the most, however, was the irresponsibility. The masses didn’t try to create anything on their own, and don’t understand anything. And yet, if they find information convenient for themselves, they rush to ingest it, and are therefore manipulated. Without motives, they consume the infrastructure called the Net. Their actions may bring unintended results, but they feel no responsibility whatsoever. My revolution is also an act of revenge against such people.”

Motoko: “Revenge?”

Kuze: “I’ve always felt a disparity between my body and my mind because I’ve been a full cyborg since childhood. I’ve always wanted to discard this inconvenient body if I could and set sail for the sea of the Net. The Asian refugees gave me a reason to live. They said that my manmade face was a very good face and flattered me by saying my Ghost is expressed within it. I then realised, for the first time… that the body and the mind may be invisible, and I was able to think of myself as a human being with a physical body. However, even those people went in the direction of convenience once they encountered palatable information. It seems human beings were created to descend to lower heights from the very beginning.”

Motoko: “So how do you propose to enact your revenge?”

Kuze: “I will take the memories and ghosts of those who are connected to me away into the Net. If a nuclear bomb is dropped here, they will lose their physical bodies, but they will obtain a chance to force and evolution.”

Motoko: “What is the possibility that they can retain their individuality on the Net?”

Kuze: “That I don’t know. But as pioneers, they can become entities that enlighten those who remained in the lower structure and make them continually aware of the higher structure. In the same way man felt respect and terror toward spiritual entities in antiquity.”

Motoko: “So that’s your revenge and salvation for the ones who disappointed you.”

Kuze: “Yes, though I believe it to be a revolution.”

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Whose side are you on?

One day ago, TODAY newspaper announced the formation of The Association of Bloggers (Singapore). I’d actually been told of such an association forming before they went public yesterday, and when i was told then, i immediately drew a parallel to the Marvel story arc: Civil War

The parallel is startling because of my fascination with the themes associated with “the responsibilities of those in power.” I’m somewhat convinced that there are those of us online who believe that there is power in the words we type, the causes we support, the unity of our actions. Of course there are also online citizens who would very much like to be left alone, or don’t see themselves with that sort of responsibility. More power to them.. this blog post isn’t about telling you what’s right or wrong. You make that choice yourself.

Without going into vendettas that seem to be plaguing most of the online discussion over the formation of this group, I personally would not join the association. On the grounds that I am a free-thinking individual and I owe no specific allegiance to anyone. That is the beauty of blogging and exercising our right to freedom of speech. This sentiment is also voiced by one of The Association’s members, Xtralicious.

I do applaud the association for championing “more professionalism in blogging”, because I think that blogging has the potential to make things happen, and if you find a group of like-minded individuals, more power to you. And although that is in alignment with some of my own ideals, i realise my interest is not so much in being an activist, but more an observer, to even offer third party opinions.. or practicing the journalistic ideal of the 4th estate.

Again, I do not see the need to pay a membership fee to join the association simply because i do not want to join the association. I’m definitely not a “professional” blogger (whatever that is), I’m simply a blogger who’s sharing his opinion. I applaud professional behavior such as being civil, ethical and checking of facts.. but i don’t think “professional” blogging is an occupation that requires a membership to an association. What pre-requisites does one need to join the association? It’s not like a medical, accounting or law associations where you need certain credentials. And if all you need is “to be a blogger”, then that’s hardly a criteria.. and you can see where this circular argument is going.

One final concern I have about this action, is that after 24 hours, you can see the effects of splintering. There are those who support the formation of the association, and there are those who are vehemently opposed to it. Bloggers seem to be starting to take sides and there has also been a revisitation of old wounds, unaddressed issues, bloggers calling out for the motivations of starting the association, personal attacks, boycotts.. it’s a little tragic I believe, the symptoms of a civil war.

I doubt it will escalate to that, but it seems that some prominent Singapore bloggers are against the idea. Naturally, they also maintain an anonymous presence on the web. [Links: Rockson, Singabloodypore]

Anonymity plays an important role in exercising some level of freedom of speech. It allows you to say what’s really on your mind without the ramifications of personal attacks, political attacks, things that could harm your reputation offline. In an ideal democracy, I’d say there’s little need for such anonymity, but I don’t think that exists anywhere in the world today. On the flipside, many abuse anonymity and undermine the efforts of various organisations unnecessarily. This is where something like the association would come in handy.

But I don’t think the Internet will ever be a place of registered and unregistered bloggers. If it does, I’m inclined to think that some form of personal freedom is taken away. While i choose to reveal my own identity public, I never expect it of everybody. That is your own choice.

It is with this regard to freedom of choice, and freedom of expression that I find I would rather not join the association. My validation as a blogger comes through my own integrity and my audience. Not necessarily through an external body. It works for me, but YOU will definitely have your own opinion.

If you want to find out what works for you, I urge you to make your own decision and be true to yourself in your own blogging endeavors.

Insert 21 January 2009, 10:29 AM: After reading the comments, I realise I made a poor job articulating that I don’t see this as a black or white issue, and that I’d hate to see us having to take sides. There is a massive clout of grey in this discussion, and I believe most of us exist in the “grey” paradigm. There is no need to call for boycotts or call each other un-patriots. The Net exists as an ecosystem of free thought, some unsavory, some enlightening. Just thought I would make that clearer -)

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