- Alina's blog

Back to idiotism and a few other changes…

This blog has been quiet for a while now. I do hope to start writing soon (although I think I’ll do most of my next writing in Catalan – and the focus will not be only in technology).
A few people asked me what I’m doing now, since I’m not so active in projects I used to contribute (e.g. Mozilla) or doing things I used to do locally (e.g. participating in tech. events and open source groups).

Well, part of the answer is that during the last year I tried to find some time for myself. I started to feel kind of overwhelmed by the amount and quality of the information around me (yes, yes, I mean that kind of BuzzMachine that most of Open Source/Tech. “community” seems to be nowadays).

And what is it better than becoming an idiot? Experimenting that state of being useless to the world, of being less intelligent than most of the “smart citizens”, and start questioning again why and how things happen.

Professor Han, a contemporary essayist and cultural theorist from Germany, puts it very well:

It’s a function of philosophy to represent the role of the idiot. From the beginning, the philosophy goes along with the idiotism. Any philosopher that generates a new language, a new style, a new thinking, needs to be an idiot before.

The history of philosophy is a history of idiotisms.
Socrates, who only knows that he doesn’t know anything, is an idiot. An idiot is also Descartes, because he doubts of everything. Cogito ergo sum is an idiotism.
An internal contraction of thinking makes possible a new beginning. Descartes thinks about the thinking. The thinking recovers its virginal state when it connects with itself. Deluze opposes to the Cartesian idiot an another idiot [...]

Today, it looks like the somewhat marginalised, the crazy and the idiot basically disappeared from society. The whole network connectedness and the digital communications increase considerably the coercion over conformity. The violence of consensus repress the idiotisms.

(from the book “Psychopolitik: Neoliberalismus und die neuen Machttechniken”)

Yes, part of my time right now is devoted to studying philosophy at the University (offline and back to the system!). And I really like it very much. Only because you are there with a group of people who disagrees with you, who appreciates your critique, your skepticism and negativity… makes me feel much more being part of a community.

However, I’m not out of the technology world, as the other part of my time is devoted to work, which means applications development, deployments and even trainings.
But indeed, I’m feeling that I have to step back from the BuzzMachine that OpenSource/OpenWeb/OpenWathever has became. I’ve also developed more of a critical view on what is “connectedness or a connected society”, including the “sharing economy” – a deviation of open source concept (which on its turn is a mutation of Free Software social movement).

The Open Web has fallen…

For the last few days I’ve seen, both offline and online, many reactions from people taking a stance regarding the support of Firefox for a plugin that will allow users to consume DRM-protected content: some were angry, some sad, some broken-hearted, some puzzled and a small part (mostly Mozilla contributors) just silent.

This is not new at Mozilla. In fact, during the last couple of months we have been very shaken by various situations and announcements: ads and content personalisation, “leadership” changes, conflict resolutions… Some people have been thinking that this is already a slow slippery-slope phase (which I hope it’s not).  

I cannot defend Mozilla about how this was managed (both at the decision making and communication level) – via a simplistic and defensive “we had to!” rather than through an open ended narrative…

I’d dare to say that they did the realistic thing as a corporate enterprise (for which marketshare is important in order to produce revenue and stay in business). In this case, the revenue is to cover the expenses and infrastructure that are necessary to build a browser, a mobile operating system and other pieces of software that most of the people use without [sic] wondering how engineers, designers, developers, etc. are actually paid.

It’s unjust to hit so hard in an organisation such as Mozilla, which historically struggled to build utilitarian “free” software, so people could surf the web securely, developers could build extensions and personalise it and, the more adventurous, could even take the core of Mozilla technology (Gecko) and build their own software / project / business, replicating thus the model (Thunderbird, Postbox, Komodo IDE are some examples).

On the other hand, Mozilla has never been a Free Software organisation  - but championed a hybrid model: focusing on products with a mission. And most of the time, the star product, Firefox, has allowed the installation of proprietary plugins and add-ons. Moreover, it has adopted a strong trademark policy – facts that, for a long time, spurred conversations within the free software community (ending up with forks like this one).

Mozilla has always been about pragmatism and poetry, except that, in the last couple of years, it forgot how to write poetry. Instead of poetry, it adopted the “Open Web” dogma.

The nihilistic Open Web (or rather, open web) is probably one of the most empty expressions I ever heard. I heard it first 5 years ago, during a Mozcamp in Prague. I was there with a small group of people trying to define “what the open web is”. I still remember people struggling to define “the ideal”: it may be a cocktail of bitter-sweet drinks that in the end you still love, a political tool, your deepest sentiments about the web, what else? 

I’ve been watching since then how some tried to define it, then adopted it, and then evangelised it as an absolute ideal. And here it comes the different reactions from people, put face to face to the fact that “The Web” (for some, the idealistic “Open Web”) – has reached to a point when, as any other communication medium, is subject to how the “real world” works.

As Nietzsche said, “The naivete was to take an anthropocentric idiosyncrasy as the measure of things, as the rule for determining “real” and “unreal”: in short, to make absolute something conditioned. And behold, suddenly the world fell apart into a “true” world and an “apparent” world…” .[1]

And thus, we are finding ourselves in a time when we need to search for new values – trust, confidence, a space free from distraction where to think and work, a medium where we can evolve as a human beings… I’m skeptical that we can find all this on the Web.

And that’s not to say that the Web didn’t change how we worked as society (social networks and the browser indeed changed radically the way we interact). 

But now, the Web has become yet another medium, as it was the radio or the cable TV. The latter ones are still alive, people still use those media to get informed and entertained. They followed their cycle: from greater inventions, to conforming a medium for people to pursue their civil liberties, then they became media for commerce and economic powers, then they were regulated by governments and, in the end, they ended up being as any other medium inventions before.

It’s not helpful to continue insisting on this “hegemony of the Web” – the Web is not the future anymore, but it’s not dead either (because media don’t die, they just become obsolete). This EME affair, where the very W3C brought us months ago, put an end to the Web as an ideal for humanity.

Continuing with the discourse of “the web is the only salvation” is just keeping on carving into mediocrity, 

If I had to illustrate what the Open Web was…

Photo

An illustration by Andrjez Krauze in a series by The Guardian. Taken from: Reporters without borders – “Conference on Free Speech Magazine”. 

Note:

[1] “ The naivete was to take an anthropocentric idiosyncrasy as the measure of things, as the rule for determining “real” and “unreal”: in short, to make absolute something conditioned. And behold, suddenly the world fell apart into a “true” world and an “apparent” world: and precisely the world that man’s reason had devised for him to live and settle in was discredited. Instead of employing the forms as a tool for making the world manageable and calculable, the madness of philosophers divined that in these categories is presented the concept of that world to which the one in which man lives does not correspond–The means were misunderstood as measures of value, even as a condemnation of their real intention– The intention was to deceive oneself in a useful way; the means, the invention of formulas and signs by means of which one could reduce the confusing multiplicity to a purposive and manageable schema. But alas! now a moral category was brought into play: no creature wants to deceive itself, no creature may deceive–consequently there is only a will to truth. What is “truth”? The law of contradiction provided the schema: the true world, to which one seeks the way, cannot contradict itself, cannot change, cannot become, has no beginning and no end. This is the greatest error that has ever been committed, the essential fatality of error on earth: one believed one possessed a criterion of reality in the forms of reason, while in fact one possessed them in order to become master of reality, in order to misunderstand reality in a shrewd manner”. (Nietszche – “The Will to Power” manuscripts,  “Power” book I, pg. 211).