This story has a simple message: The system that is supposed to maintain the balance between secrets and civil liberties has broken down. Many believed that it already had, but Feinstein, for good reason, had argued that even if changes needed to be made, the essential relationship between her committee and the agencies it oversees was operating within bounds. What she described Tuesday was a total lack of trust on both sides. The level of trust was so low that people may have felt it was necessary to break the law to fulfill their obligations. That’s not just bad for this particular relationship; it throws the balance between the two branches into even greater turmoil than it was already in.
To blush is to be human, vulnerable, and humble to the power of the subconscious. This BBC article synthesizes a series of studies on how, why, and what happens when we blush. In particular it focuses on the social impact of blushing, and the trust it often engenders from those observing the blush.
As we move further into an automated, robotic, and fast paced society, the inherently human characteristics we can all exhibit will and are already becoming more powerful. We desire authenticity, and we demand transparency of our leaders, perhaps the blush is a means of cultivating these qualities.
Does the News do us any good? That’s what @alaindebotton asks in this great RSA talk.
If you want to keep a population supine, addicted to the status-quo, unable to grasp their sense of what is possible, and what could be changed, you’ve got two options: one, censor the news completely. The other option is the practice we use, flood people with news, give them so much news, they don’t know what’s going on, and then you can tell them they’re free, that information is free… News has in many ways replaced religion, which used to be the place people went to find out what is right and wrong, and contemplate the meaning of life. Now we look to news as a system of authority, and it shapes our understanding of reality…
Setting up a new iteration of my primary website. Part of the motivation is to clear out my folder of interesting links I want to blog about but haven’t had the time. So here’s hoping tumblr will reduce the friction between thinking, writing, and publishing!
Erotic Capital And The End Of Men
I recently finished reading, and thoroughly enjoyed, Hanna Rosin’s book “The End of Men”. I chose to read this book after watching her RSA talk, and while reading the book, CBC Radio’s Ideas, broadcast the Munk Debates that were on the same subject.
As a man I’m neither threatened nor intimidated by the concept that the dominance of men in our society is in decline, or that women are rising in power, either independently, or even at the expense of most men. I see gender as a dynamic and often limiting concept, that is best experienced in the most flexible and self-defined terms.
I also agree with Hanna’s argument that women are rising, and that men are in decline. Many if not most of the men I’ve known in my life have struggled to find a meaningful and contributing role for themselves in this society. School was almost impossible to complete, and meaningful work is rarely found and never secure.
I constantly struggle to understand what it means to be a man in our world, and while I have great role models in my family, I find the landscape of pop culture littered with men I cannot identify with, and find myself wanting to be the opposite of. There are few who I’ve been able to look to as role models, and almost all of them are people I’ve known personally, and thus not part of pop culture per se.
Instead I’ve consistently found myself looking to women as role models. As the leaders I want to follow and take cues from. Professionally I’ve sought out strong female leaders to support and collaborate with.
In particular Hanna Rosin cites Julie Gerberding on the concept of meta-leadership or horizontal leadership. This involves knowing how to negotiate, collaborate, employ emotional intelligence and empathy. These traits are not exclusive to women, but they’re often not what men focus on when defining their own leadership styles.
Similarly another concept worth exploring is the theory of erotic capital, as developed by Catherine Hakim. Erotic capital is a “fourth personal asset” that compares to economic, cultural, and social capital. Hanna Rosin refers to erotic capital as charm and charisma rather than beauty or sexiness.
As Catherine Hakim argues, erotic capital is not only important when it comes to mating and marriage, but also labour markets, the media, politics, advertising, sports, the arts, and everyday social interaction. She also notes that women often have more erotic capital simply because they spend more time cultivating and using it. This is in spite of attempts by male dominated societies to impose moral ideologies and restrictions on the ability of women to employ and exploit their erotic capital for economic and social benefits.
There are many men who express resentment at the way women are now able and free to properly wield and explore their erotic capital. Instead as men we can learn how to better develop and understand our own erotic capital. The same way we can develop and understand feminine models of leadership and governance.
Rosin similarly describes the financial benefit many companies have found by discarding public corporate identities and brands which were exclusively male, with ones that were more inclusive:
“Companies no longer wanted to present themselves as faceless arbiters of authority; in an increasingly democratic, multicultural age they wanted to be seen as approachable and consumer responsive… Now in the era of self-expression and social media, stone-faced patriarchy is the kiss of death.”
Thus one of the primary messages men can take from this book is to be able to adapt, and be malleable. We live in a dynamic world where the rapid rate of technological change means that lifelong learning and multiple careers are how things will be for most if not all.
Women are succeeding because they are able to adapt, manage multiple roles, often multiple jobs, and the expectations that come with juggling life, work, family, and friends.
The good news for men is that with enough humility, there are an ample supply of nearby potential teachers and role models to learn from.
Narcissism Drives The Desire For Fame
- Intensity (e.g., “Very little matters to me apart from being famous”)
- Vulnerability (e.g., “I want to be famous because it would help me overcome issues I have about myself”)
- Celebrity Life-Style (e.g., “I want to be rich”)
- Drive (e.g., “I work hard everyday to be famous”)
- Perceived Suitability (e.g., “I have got what it takes to be famous”)
- Altruistic (e.g., “I want to be famous so I can make a contribution to society”)
- The desire to be seen/valued (e.g., “Being on the cover of a magazine”, “Being recognized in public”)
- The desire for an elite, high status lifestyle (e.g., “Having the ability to travel in first class and stay at exclusive resorts”, “Living in a mansion or penthouse apartment”)
- The desire to use fame to help others or make them proud (e.g., “Being able to financially support family and friends”, “Being a role model to others”)
While on the one hand I’ve often regarded the desire for fame as a desire for power, this research suggests that it is also a means of self-fulfillment. That for narcissists, fame may be their ultimate goal, the justification for their narcissism, as an aspirational self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe the individual who wants to be famous thinks that if they are even more narcissistic their chance of fame will increase.
The research also touches upon the “need to belong”, which Scott Barry Kaufman uses to argue that the desire for fame is “rooted in basic human needs”.
While I acknowledge that the desire for community and connection is strong when it comes to motivating people, I’m not sure it should be regarded in this manner. Rather I wonder if that desire for fame actually subverts and hurts a subject’s need for belonging.
In wanting to belong, they seek fame, embracing narcissism, and potentially alienating the people who would otherwise care for and accept them. The paradox of social relations in the era of social media is that while the tools could be used for social connection, they are more often used in the pursuit of fame via narcissistic over-sharing.
I had a chat with my friend and CBC host Don Connolly about the role Anonymous played in the Rehtaeh Parsons case.
I talked about the trust that Anonymous elicits from the public who believe that they can confide in Anonymous and have their own identity respected.
I was invited to give a TEDx talk at Western University and I decided to present some of the knowledge that has emerged via the Hacking Reality program at the Academy of the Impossible. Explicitly I focused on how the internet impacts our relationship with authority, and as a result our relationship with reality. The opportunity therefore is to hack reality, and demand the impossible.
If you find it entertaining please share widely.
Call it a currency without a country. Bitcoins … digital tokens that are traded over the Internet … can’t be stuffed in your wallet, or crammed in your pocket. But that hasn’t stopped the virtual coinage from sending ripples through the financial world. Early this year you could buy a bitcoin online for $15. But its value has surged —- spiking upwards of $250 this week.
With more and more people looking to shelter themselves from a jittery global economy an increasing number of these virtual bucks are finding real-world homes. Just ask Alex Likhtenstein. He co-owns EVR Bar in Manhattan, and allows people to pay their tabs in bitcoin.
For more on this, we were joined by Jesse Hirsh. He is a technology correspondent for CBC. He’s also co-founder of Academy of the Impossible, a peer-to-peer learning facility in Toronto.
Trust is the chicken soup of social life. It brings us all sorts of good things—from a willingness to get involved in our communities to higher rates of economic growth ( …), to making daily life more pleasant. Yet, like chicken soup, it appears to work somewhat mysteriously. (Uslaner)
I asked Sherida Ryan to host a discussion at the Academy of the Impossible about trust in the age of transparency. Here’s the description and video:
Normally, we are unaware of the trust process. We often take trust for granted and treat it like the air we breathe, noticing it “only when it becomes scarce or polluted” (Baier). Trust requires two conditions: risk and dependence. Risk occurs when a person encounters a situation where perfect information is not available, where the future is unpredictable, and where there is a possibility of loss or harm. Risk creates the opportunity for trust development. Dependence is the second feature. Trust grows out of the interdependent nature of tasks, where one party relies on another, or perhaps many others, to achieve some desired result.
Research about trust has increased over the past 20 years, some say because of the advent of computer-mediated environment. The affordances of computer-mediated interaction can pose a challenge for the development of trust. Trust comes into question as situations become complex and uncertain. How can you trust people you have never met, whose identity is difficult to verify, in an environment where there are few mechanisms to control or sanction anti-social behaviour?
Similar to discussions of trust in face-to-face environments, the issue of trust in computer-mediated contexts has been approached from several perspectives. The most popular being what is known as trust through security. According to this perspective, online trust is best established through the development of strong security mechanisms (for example, access control and surveillance). This argument is predicated on the perspective that a perfectly secure system will ensure trustworthy online behavior.
However equating trust with security indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of trust. Eliminating risk reduces opportunities for trust formation, removing situations where a successful experience in negotiating dependence and vulnerability facilitates the development of trust. Paradoxically, attempts to assure trust through ever-increasing levels of security or surveillance lead to a climate of mistrust. An emphasis on security issues constrain the scope and quality of peoples’ lives, resulting in gated communities, characterized by suspicion and hording of public goods.
So what becomes of trust in an age of transparency.
I returned to The Agenda with Steve Paikin to discuss the pivot that BlackBerry hopes to make with the release of their new BB10 operating system. We touched upon the new operating system, the Z10 device, and the challenges BlackBerry faces moving forward.
I enjoy going on The Agenda and talking with Steve as there are no commercials and the long conversational format allows for a smarter and deeper discussion. For example we were able to get into the mythology that technology companies tend to foster and the impact this has upon their success.
This episode was shot during a massive snow storm in Toronto (and most of the North East of the continent), and the subway shut down three times while I was going to and from the studio. The Agenda has another panel set for the show but had to cancel it because the participants couldn’t make it due to the snow. Goes to show that often just showing up is enough to get in on the action, although it doesn’t help if you say smart stuff too
The 2012 Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs, moderated by Steve Paikin and featuring Lee Rainie and myself, was held on October 17th 2012 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at Victory University at the University of Toronto.
We addressed the question, Is Social Media Good for Democracy? Neither of us answered a complete yes or no, but instead offered nuanced answers that encourage both cautious optimism and chilling alarm.
The discussion overall was far reaching, and fascinating. In particular it was a treat to spend time with Lee Rainie who is the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit, non–partisan “fact tank” that studies the social impact of the internet. Lee is also a co-author – with a close friend of mine and University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman – of Networked: The new social operating system, which was released in 2012.
Jesse Hirsh is the Co-Founder of The Academy of the Impossible and President of Metaviews.ca. In talking about the rise of new digital currencies, Hirsh explains what Bitcoin is, and how it could change the old economic system based on the idea of the nation state, for good. He says, “The nation state is a relic of a past time… But the internet is now. And the idea of digital currency is the idea of value that is rooted in the present empire.”
My presentation to the Government Management Committee at Toronto City Hall on Wednesday June 1st 2011 regarding Open Government and Open Data.