E-publish or perish

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Tue, 14 Jun 1994 15:29:37 JST

To Dwight Read and Mike Salovesh, yes guys, I do agree, it's ALL
POLITICS. What startles me is the number of people (including a
younger version of myself) who ever believed differently. The question
is how to respond: With disgust and a sense of hopelessness? Or, let's
be political and serious about it.

I take it as given (to everyone but saints and Buddhas perhaps) that
those have have will do what they have to to keep what they have. But
when I read Reich on _The Work of Nations_, Harvey on _The
Condition of Postmodernism_ and Peters on _Liberation Management_
and all three are telling me that what's going on is the downsizing of
core organizations with long-term employment security and more and
more of the world's work being done by freelancers/consultants/
contract employees, etc., I don't find the situation of anthropologists all
that unusual. What is surprising is how many of us think that our
academic credentials should guarantee that we're one of the haves and
not the have-nots.

I have a serious interest in (1) the micropolitics of keeping what I have
and adding to it and (2) the macropolitics of societies in which large
numbers of people who were middle-class managers and consumers
face sharp reductions in life-chances. Since my business is persuasion
and I know directly that most of what I sell is trust, (1) gives me a very
strong interest indeed in how credibility is built and maintained. To
me, then, anthropological research on myth, ritual, rhetoric, etc. has a
direct, practical value. When I add to (2) the demographics of a world in
which the majority of humanity is--and I know it--desperately poor--
and high-performance weaponry is all too easy to come by, I suspect
that some seriously fascist "solution" is all to likely to appear. This
keeps me looking hopefully at writers with a macro perspective who
might help us find something better.

That's the gloomy me speaking. The optimist says, hey, look, technology
is giving us ways to move and use information on a totally unparalleled
scale. Even with this crappy text-only interface, I've met a whole batch
of interesting people I never would have known even 10 years ago.
We're talking technology that has, it appears, had a significant role in
events like the collapse of the former Soviet Union, world-historical
stuff. If we thought a bit more about how we can use it and (here is the
adman speaking) how we can sell it to those who control the resources
we need,then we may get somewhere.

One thing I know for sure is that we won't shake many haves by telling
them they shouldn't have it; Christ spoke to the rich young man nearly
2000 years ago and we know how far that message has got. What we
have to look for then is improvements that make the world a safer,
more convenient, more interesting place for the haves, too, while
turning the have-nots into haves.

Can it be done? Probably not. Is it worth trying? The alternative is too
disgusting not to.

And then I ask myself, what if a committee and the person being evaluated
both had a chance to see influence and acceptance mapped on a big color
monitor with recommendations and citations continually updated by the
massively parallel processors that were also running the imaging software?
At this point, fantasy, sure. But that's where the future begins.

Cheers, John