Neighbourhood talk(s)

9/04/2010 - 22:58

Rob van Kranenburg: I posted a notice today April 9 'International Internet of Things Day', saying 'Lecture on the Internet of Things ' at Frédéric, our downstairs neighbour in our Ghent appartment block, and, apart from Kitty,  two people showed up! Peter, a neighbour from across the street and Reinoud, an engineer who lives in the appartment next to ours. I brought a bottle of Cava Brut, but only Kitty seemed to drink from that, as both me and Frédéric are teetotallers and Reinoud declined after a sip or two.
I started with a few dates. After 1455 it is possible to print anything for everybody and although one could have made the entire European population of that time literate, the first public library in the Netherlands opens in 1917. In over 450 years one can see that it is easy to build institutions, representative democracy and science based on theory-practice dichotomies as you hold the code to what is data and noise and data and information. Actually this lasts until the first browser in 1993. Now all these vertical structures appear to be still functioning at first sight, yet under the waterline they are crumbling. No institution can withstand such a massive attack on its axiomatic principles. In a world of real time data gathering by individuals who would conceive of an idea such as handing over your agency to some one you don't know in another town to vote for four years on all the things that you might care about?
The second set of dates is the Arpanet in 1969, the browser in 1993, Mark Weisers Computer for the 21th century in 1991 and bringing RFID under the penny cost in 1999. The speed is staggering. This was also one of the comments of the neighbours. The first real issue to be brought up was privacy and although I am more thinking along the lines of issues of solidarity and decision making after democracy, we have to acknowledge that this is the first that comes to mind after hearing the full story of RFID, IPV6 monitoring mechanisms in ordinary devices and the security smart camera grid.
Actually I was quite nervous, and this after lecturing extensively for large audiences.
I realized I was talking very close to home, in my street, to my neighbours and if I was not convincing or plausible at least with my daily work, it would be very difficult to think out decision making tools and structures on a neighbourhood level. After all, it is easy to write about collaboration close to home, but how to start? Tonight I think I made a small step. The comments of my immediate neighbour Reinoud were so to the point and raising real issues ( like my focus could be more on what kind of data businesses are harvesting, not so much governments) that we put forward that maybe next month he would give a talk as well!