Friday, 8 April 2011

Time to Bury Public Services?

Time to Bury Public Services?

The Big Theme in the 80s and 90s was privatization of industries which had been taken into public ownership, or which had evolved as ‘public services.’ The task was achieved without much political difficulty because many industries which it was assumed retained a strategic significance such as manufacturing, coal, and steel were making a loss and were now perceived to be a burden on the hard-pressed state. In other cases industries such as oil, gas, telecoms, electricity and water had evolved to make a safe profit and had become highly valued assets that could easily be (un)bundled for sale.

The Post Office (once attached to Telecoms) is the last vestige of the entrepreneurial state, where a commercial public service is retained for the common good, is perhaps the final remainder of a commercial service in public hands. There was a sense that state ownership and asset sales had reached the end of the line. No politician would dare to touch social care, public health and education. But with the inexorable force of progress and modernity, Public 1.0 had morphed into Public 2.0

A second wave of privatization - thirty years in the making and less remarked on by activists and commentators - was occurring through the process of compulsory competitive tendering for the delivery of public services. The main impact was on local services (rather than the big state departments), where the public provider of cleaning services or refuse collection, for example, now competed with private suppliers who seemed able to do the same work with lower wages, fewer holidays and fewer opportunities for sickness, and unencumbered by quaint trade union arrangements.

Regional and local democratic power and participation, which had always been the weak in relation to a highly centralized top-down state, was reduced to a round of tendering and contracting meetings with private services. The notion that the political colour of your local councillors made any difference was exploded by the reality of a privatized, technologized and accountable delivery of public services by private companies. Local councils were reduced to rhetoric machines for community cohesion.

A trickle of traditional funding persisted as a consequence of the European community’s regeneration initiatives. Regeneration projects were further supplemented by a variety of fashionable initiatives launched by the centralised state eager to appear to engage and harness the untapped energies of the decaying localities and unequal regions.

The monstrous combination of multiple, competing and overlapping bureaucracies, poor local knowledge from the top-down, or excessive monitoring and evaluation, and weak existing capacity, doomed many such projects to weak outcomes and poor effectiveness.

The money spent, consultants enriched, and budgets examined, someone somewhere noticed that free capitalism had collapsed and the public purse was empty. At least we had some shining new schools and hospitals as a legacy of Labour’s rule, shorter waiting lists in health and rising standards in education.

The failure and collapse of the capitalist system was one lesson that might be expected to militate against a grander role for Capitalism. But the perceived burden of public services set against weak income generation from taxes means that there is constant pressure for improved value in public services. Again there is a perception that value for money means Privatization. Where the p- word is as unpalatable as the c-word there is an opening for new Policy formation and a Communications exercises. The rhetoric and propaganda machine went to work and came up with an ideologically coherent big baggy monster and called it the Big Society.

Big Society is delightful and repulsive at all levels. As a former student of language and literature I try to be sensitive to the nuances and shifts of language, in literary and political discourse. The way, for instance, that the word ‘silly’ shifted from ‘innocent’ to ‘stupid’. I’m impressed and disturbed by the way that in street language ‘sick’ has become the epitome of hip commodification and fashionable risk, rather than a call for medical attention. Gloriously slippery and Satanic let’s concede that language cheats us of sense and renews our spirits.

Big Society is delightfully contorted because it verges on paradox. For critics it’s more moron than oxymoron; more or less demonic than Satan’s ‘darkness visible’; more or less hackneyed than ‘bitter sweet’. Politically it surpasses the Age of  New Labour’s ‘social enterprise’ as the happy mix of public and private profit, individual and community. The recuperation of Big against the demonisation of 70s Liberalism’s ‘Big Business and Corporate Giants’ is noteworthy.

Forget fascism’s Big State, and communism’s too. The Big State is the local busy body, the parochial council, five-a-side charity matches and beetle drives. It’s wiping your neighbours’ bums rather than paying for professional bum care. In the Age of Obesity, Big has become the new small. (Thinking back, it’s linguistic history in reverse: the revolution of silly from stupid back to a State of Innocence.)

The Big Society, in the Age of Disbelief, is the newly-identified Promised Land. And Society - it's not quite the community category of utopian socialists and latter day anarchist communes; nay, think more the spectre, maybe the rebirth of building Societies.

To be fair, the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the ‘new’ conservatives did not invent the Big Society, although they did package it and promote it as omni-competent public conscience and all-embracing solution to society’s ills. Big Society bravely names and shames the dominant, residual and emergent social and cultural forces; it bundles them together without fear of system and coherence, and with ‘gay’ abandon.

Where does that leave the future of what we still think of as our public services? The seeds of present actions were, in my view sown by New Labour. Their emphasis shifted from a privatization agenda to a creeping commercialization of services: parent and patient choice; technologized and depoliticized monitoring and evaluation of outputs; outcomes and league tables.

Before the present crisis of capitalism we had a renewed enthusiasm for community trusts, social enterprise mutuals and co-ops; establishing an improved ‘infrastructure support’ system for charities and voluntary services to better enable them to deliver public services.

As the rhetoric machines bulged and poverty beckoned,  Public 2.0 experienced the birth pangs of a New Labour. Hybrid government paved the way for a more monstrous birth still.

The time has come to welcome Public 3.0. A brazen world of virtual services and user-driven interactivity;  a transpublic community of transmedia storytelling. In Public 2.0 we had a signifier deprived of a referent. In Public 3.0, finally free, let’s celebrate the quantum public – the signifier deprived of a signified. Deconstruction has done its works and a terrible beauty is born.

The narrative of progressive postmodernity stalks the public sphere. The last vestiges of public delivery must be occupied by the contracted, by the private, by the voluntary and the charitable. Thatcherism and New Labour must finish their work. Division of Sense replaces Division of Labour and Cognitive Dissonance has uprooted the promise of Clay Sharky's Cognitive Surplus.

As metaphor replaces reality it is pleasing to note the final solution adopted by the aptly named Bury Council. And it comes to my aid in concluding my thoughts on this topic.

In Bury, Lancashire, the Metropolitan District Council has approved a ‘transformation strategy.’ As though embarking on a business trip in a holiday spirit, they have announced their ‘direction of travel over the next four years.’

Note in particular the enhanced role for voluntary and community services. As envisaged by New Labour we are likely to see a stronger role for arms-length social enterprises, trusts, co-operative buy outs and mutualisation as the way forward in territory where brazen capitalism and responsible privateers fear to tread. Third Sector leaders, as they were once known, are cautiously welcoming the opportunity to have increased opportunities to be contracted to deliver services, or to tender to provide them.

There was a time when ‘tender’ and ‘contract’ had another meaning.

*          *           *

If you want to know how to Bury public services here is their plan:

“The strategy aims to reshape the council’s central role as a “community champion” within a rapidly changing financial and community-centred environment.

Much of what the council does will be significantly reviewed through an objective process, which will place the needs of communities at the forefront.

At its core, the strategy aims to meet a set of community principles that promote the need for quality services, but also services that can demonstrate best value for money.

Among the strategy’s details are a series of community commitments which aim to broaden the way services are provided and reassure the public that their needs will be paramount in the process. These include options for the council keeping services in-house, ceasing to directly provide services, collaboration with neighbouring authorities and partners, self management, volunteering, and increased use of the private sector.

Mike Kelly, chief executive of Bury Council, said: “We cannot keep everything as it is; that is simply unrealistic. This is not an option, given the huge financial challenges we face and the needs of our residents.

This strategy is a positive attempt to set out Bury’s direction of travel to meet these needs.”

Mr Kelly added: “The council is rightly proud of its record in providing value for money services with its own employees who have extensive experience and a wide appreciation of public service. All models of delivery will be assessed, including actively considering the continuation of in-house delivery, alongside other options."
The strategy was agreed by members at last night’s (Wednesday 30 March [2011]) council meeting.”

Is it time to Bury Public Services ?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Light and Shadow: Books and Reading in the Age of Kindle

Light and Shadow: What will happen to books and reading in the Age of Kindle?

I had the opportunity to make use of a friend’s Kindle a fortnight ago. Dear Reader, you may be shocked at my tardiness in coming to the most fashionable gadget in recent years. Indeed, in 2010, I fought off several offers of Kindle Christmas presents from the many friends and family who know very well my addiction to reading books.

I was aware of the vast library of free books and that was a temptation: having them in my pocket, rather than stuck on the hard drive, or only available with internet access. What struck me was the sleek design of the Kindle, its comfortable lightness and ease of use; but most impressive its screen technology, unglaring and flicker-free.

As my large Victorian terrace house will not accommodate more purchases of books it makes sense to switch at least some of my purchases to electronic copies for certain kinds of work. But I still have reservation and feel that the potential for ebooks is still in its infancy. But I do see astonishing positive opportunities, and fewer but nonetheless noteworthy negatives.

As I gaze into the future I am the first to admit that I have never been very good at prediction. I could not see why anyone would want to queue outside a bank, in the rain, just to gain access to your cash, when you could wait inside, speak to a cashier, and have your money handed to you in person. But self-service is now king in the World of Selves.

Let me say now that I don’t feel that Kindles and other ebooks will kill of traditional paper and hardbacks. There will still be a market for well-crafted books where the quality of the form matches the brilliance of the content. I would also admit here that many of my recent ‘hardback’ purchases have been poor examples of contemporary publishing: sloppy editing and layout, loose pages, poor paper, lack of illustrations, footnotes, an index, a bibliography …

Considering that production and delivery costs are negligible I see no reason why supporting material and resources, including colour illustration, cannot become an expected component of non-fiction ebooks. Here then is an opportunity for improved quality of content, and more of it.

Epublishing and self-publishing also provide opportunities to reduce the role of parasitic intermediaries such as the publisher and shop. It has long been a topic of lamentation amongst writers of worthy but unpopular books that the author is paid a pittance for years of conscientious research, reflection and composition. In contrast to the shop prices, many writers are no better off than the coffee bean grower, paid a few cents from your $4 cappuccino. Surely it’s now time for a fair trade deal for authors too.

Nonetheless, I don’t predict that instantly available, cheaper and more dynamic ebooks will replace their traditional ancestors. There is uniqueness about the book as commodity and artefact which the Kindle clone world cannot utterly displace or diminish. There will also be nostalgia for the traditional product. And an appreciation of the art and craft element in book as object. Similarly Tape and CD looks cramped and uniform compared to the opulent canvas of Vinyl Records. And there will be purists who prefer the ‘warmth’ and glitchy individuality of the analogue to the bland reproducibility digital product.

But ebooks present a range of further opportunities for reading and writing that the traditional forms could not and will not offer.

First, we will see the development of enhanced reading, in which the text is not merely supplemented by, but integrated with other multi-media. If I am reading an ebook on the History of Rap, one click will allow me to place the examples featured in the book. Similarly colour illustration and video clips also become an affordable option for content, citation, and diversity of approach.

Second, improved opportunities for annotation are attractive for the many non-fiction readers who are studying or researching. Again the transition is toward a more active reading process. Of course I can still underline and comment in the margins of my paper copy, but the ease of use for multi-coloured highlighting, commenting, searching certainly facilitates the usability of the text. Add to that the possibility of communal annotation and we have further avenues for creative collaboration which would be a crime against the crisp clarity of the shared library book.

My third observation is that we will see publishers offering discounts to groups of readers who have formed into clubs because they enjoy the shared experience of reading, comment and criticizing texts. For those with minority interest, this affords opportunities for informed discussion across vast distances, and on a global scale. Note how the empowering effects of the technology present opportunities for a shift in human consciousness.

A further development of the third observation would be the book that can evolve through individual or collective participation. We are familiar with books having different editions, but these have become uneconomic for all but the most popular or scientific non-fiction. The ebook becomes a living organism rather than a stable and fixed cultural artefact.

A fifth observation, more radical, and perhaps a little disturbing, takes the openness a stage further and provides books with different openings, middles, or endings. Or characters and locations that readers can alter and transform. The book perhaps comprises flexible and shifting modules, components, and floating memes, susceptible to addition, deletion, or transformation. Books that reform and deform. Texts become deconstructing games, and the balance of creative effort shifts from ‘writer’ to ‘reader.’ What’s disturbing in this case is the demise of our long cherished notions of property, authorship and ownership, guaranteed by the commodity form of the book as a fixed and stable created object. What’s more disturbing, perhaps, is the need to recognize that the period of romantic authorship, which we may be on the verge of abandoning, persisted for less than three centuries in the history of human writing and thinking systems.

A sixth observation proposed an experience even further away from the notion of reader, writer and book as a one-to-one experience. As texts become a form of enriched and enhanced reality, a transition is made to animation and game technologies; to infinitely increased levels of interactivity and engagement. Perhaps the student textbook will prevent access to the next level, until questions have been answered correctly. Books that police our journeys through them and a corporate dream of remote learning beyond physical institutions.

And lurking behind the collective participation is the machine tracking our preferences and choices. Reading interrupted by pop-up ads designed to capitalize and monetize our tastes and preferences. Othello becomes a weekend trip to Venice, The Odyssey a Greek holiday opportunity. In this scenario ebooks and maybe even the readers are offered to us for ‘free’ but are colonized by tracking, tagging and selling; a minor sacrifice and self-willed infringement of the safe and private experience of reading that is now no more than a shadowy nostalgia for a lost time, a lost place.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Radicals, Revolutionaries and the New Cinema

Radicals, Revolutionaries and the New Cinema: Selected Quotations designed to provoke discussion of new technology, collaboration, remixing, machine assembly, participatory cinema and media interactivity:

“The film drama is the Opium of the people…down with Bourgeois fairy-tale scenarios…long live life as it is!”
(Dziga Vertov)

“The anti-bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby … false! […] To DOGME 95, cinema is not individual! Today a technological storm is raging, the result of which will be the ultimate democratisation of the cinema.”
(Lars von Trier and Vinterberg, 1995)

“Kino-Eye means the conquest of space, the visual linkage of people throughout the entire world based on the continuous exchange of visible fact, of film documents as opposed to the exchange of cinematic theatrical representations.” Dziga Vertov)

“Kino-Eye uses every possible means in montage, comparing and linking all points of the universe in any temporal order, breaking, when necessary, all the laws and conventions of film construction.” (Dziga Vertov)

Kino-Eye plunges into the seeming chaos of life to find the resultant force amongst the million phenomena related to the given theme. To edit; to wrest, through the camera, whatever is most typical, most useful, from life; to organize the film pieces wrested from life into a meaningful visual phrase, an essence of “I See” (Dziga Vertov)

Thirty years after his time it became possible to apply Vertov’s injunctions without any loss between the idea—to film everything, record everything, to be in life without disturbing or falsifying it—and its realisation. (Vertov had been restricted to filming public manifestations, crowds, ceremonies, etc and was unable to seize everyday life because his equipment could not pass unnoticed).
(J-L Comolli in Cahiers du cinéma)

“Vertov also has waged fierce, vehement and desperate battles with his materials and his instruments (reality and the film camera) to give practical proofs of his ideas. In this he has failed. He had failed already in the era of the silent film by showing hundreds of examples of most cunning artistry in turning acrobatic masterpieces of peotic jigsaw, brilliant conjuring of filmic association – but never a rounded work, never a clear, proceeding line. His great efforts of strength in relation to detail did not leave him breath for the whole. His arabesques totally covered the ground plan, his fugues destroyed every melody.” (Kraszna Krausz 1931)

Selected readings:
Dziga Vertov: Defining Documentary Film, Jeremy Hicks, London: I. B. Tauris, 2007.
Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov. Dziga Vertov, University of California Press, 1985.

Cultures of Participation and Collaboration: a Discussion

Cristian Collini

   Common and recurring rhetorical strategies for opposing Web 2.0 and proposing a model of cultural decline are the subject of this blog.

   At each stage I have attempted briefly and tentatively to outline alternative approaches. Please comment at the end, if you have time: your views are valued.

Common strategies used to attack the proponents of social media collaboration are:

(1) attack the most outrageous and unrepresentative claims for new digital media. Thus Jaron Lanier’s brilliant but sour book You are not a Gadget pours over an attack on the Singularity, the global virtual brain, the noosphere, and the nonsense peddled by Ray Kurzweil. Science fiction is a healthy entertainment but when it’s married to conspiracy theory on a grand scale the appropriate response is mirth and indifference, not a fist fight with imaginary monsters. But it’s worth admitting, absurdly, that Kurzweil’s global alien fantasy almost approximates to the uprooted madness that is our global system. As it turned out, it was not the covert actions of reptilian aliens that were the origin of our present slavery, but the virtual worlds of elite financiers who evolved systems that suspended value and referentiality.

(2) bemoan the loss of affect, sincerity, personhood, family (as though these were not already undermined, in a sense, by the forward march of consumer capitalism). Let’s admit that we are fortunate to have the virtual networks as a support structure for the material relations that our overworked anxiety-ridden reality seeks constantly to undermine. Web 2.0 has meant less isolation for many minorities, and those with a minority interest of some sort – and that’s all of us. Since the industrial revolution people have feared for the effects of machines, mass production, and speed, on our core values. But I’m not sure how well these arguments work in the transition from technological to digital and virtual cultures. As I say, the virtual increasingly and helpfully underpins the material, and vice versa.

(3) assume that the notion of art and creativity are the sole preserve of a transhistorical romantic discourse of genius, self, and originality. That’s a big topic. One response is that its time and culture-specific. Oral cultures, for instance, can be marvellously complex and poetic, as well as being collaborative and open-ended. Some of our greatest works, such as the Old Testament; the King James VI Bible; Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were collaborative works of multiple authorship. For Lanier, collectivity can only mean inefficiency and mediocrity:

But when a collective designs a product, you get design by committee, which is a derogatory expression for a reason. (56)

Let’s grant that some tasks are hampered by too many cooks spoiling the broth, etc. But it really depends on how the task is managed, planned, conducted, and the nature of the output. We don’t really know who the architects of our great Gothic cathedrals were, but the skilled guilds of stonemasons and freemasons continue to be a living example of shared action for the common good.

We might also note that works of art are not created in isolation. Our renaissance painters and sculptors operated with the atelier, school, or workshop that permitted a sharing of tasks and skills.

Our greatest writers have created a sublime synthesis of many of the works that preceded them. Take a look at Milton’s ‘epic’ Paradise Lost as an intertextual interweaving of a community of poetic styles, materials, and subject matter.

Collaboration happens as a kind of synchronicity but it is also diachronic; a community and fellowship of collaborators and contributors across time. As Isaac Newton famously said “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Nor did Shakespeare ever worry about the originality of his source story but plundered widely. We know that many Renaissance plays were also written collaboratively. Often one genre is parasitic, or borrows material from another, such as criminal biographies and novelistic fiction.

Modernism and postmodernism in the arts provide ample evidence of imitation, parody and collage. Hypertexts, community commenting, sampling, mixing and mash-ups are not signs of contemporary malaise (Lanier’s ‘demeaned interpersonal interaction’ p. 4) but a living tradition that runs from Alexander Pope’s Dunciad through to Eliot’s The Wasteland and the subversive and engaging energy of the Dada movement.

(4) label collaborative and collective action as mob rule; the folly of the crowd. (The dust jacket of Lanier’s book You are not a Gadget begins “It’s early in the twenty-first century, and that means that these words will mostly be read by non-persons – automatons or numb mobs composed of people who are no longer acting as individuals.” Lee Siegel’s book Against the Machine is subtitled “Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob.” These strategy of turning common folk and popular forces into destructive crowds and mobs is long-standing as human have congregated together in unequal environment. From the Roman mob to Shakespeare’s many-headed-Hydra monster, to the crowds of revolutionary France, and Burke’s eulogy for the little platoons of community we have a recurring fear expressed by the elite that the people will destroy their well-deserved privileges.

(5) mourn the demise of the professional classes.

In film terms the debate is frequently framed by the Hollywood versus YouTube, and the professional versus amateur debate. The disproportionality of the terms of reference hinders opportunities for a more nuanced approach. How do we assess the impact of different media on a postcolonial world that is nonetheless addicted to globalisation, consumer commodity fetishism and hitherto unknown levels of inequality? How do we measure the impact of well-meaning films such as Avatar against thousand of micro-narratives of lived locality experiences? A billion dollar blockbuster against a DIY film project?

(6) evacuate and emasculate popular culture by employing a model of apathy and degeneration: “Pop culture has entered into a nostalgic malaise. Online culture is dominated by trivial mashups of the culture that existed before the onset of mashups, and by fandom responding to the dwindling outposts of centralized mass media. It is a culture of reaction without action.” (20) I guess then that the global youth-led movements around environment and globalisation were media fictions? That rap cannot be a witty and irreverent force for political transformation?

(7) keep mourning. “Spirituality is committing suicide. Consciousness is attempting to will itself out of existence.” (20) The judgment is so sweeping and general I’m not sure where top start. So let’s begin by agreeing, rather than attempting to offer a trenchant critique. Parts of the population are entrapped by the captivating force of electronic games, violent and de-humanizing cinema, and the cult of celebrity and the opium of televisual entertainment. We are more captive than the performing animals in a 1970s exploitation circus. Mobiles, tweets, gadgets and apps are forever demanding our attention like parasitic monster doubles. Vile outgrowths that stick to use like leeches an sap our vital energies. They are vampires on our time; replacing the mystery of real encounter with all the sad banality of the click.

Are we becoming mere accessories of Machines (as Marx imagined) or victims of Mobs (as Burke feared)?

I enjoyed reading the comments from Gareth Edwards recently:

“then there's storytelling - telling a story that people care about. There's no shortcut or magic trick to that. Getting that right is stupidly rare. It's a competition everyone can enter but your chances of winning are still the same. It probably has more repercussion, this digital revolution, for current affairs than cinema. Any event that kicks off, whether it's a secret war crime or something that happened in a dictatorship, you've got an HD video camera that you can use, distribute and put online to the entire world a few seconds after taking it. That's the digital film revolution that everyone is missing. Everyone seems more obsessed with someone making a monster in their bedroom. You can fight the monsters with a camera but not necessarily in the cinema."

Typically, I find myself with more questions than answers.

Are we beginning to see the end of a romantic notion of cinema; the demise of a fairy-tale Hollywood; the shrinking power of the Director as Auteur? Tales of the death of traditional popular cinema entertainment (an awkward, contradictory bundle to unpack) have often been exaggerated. Are we living in a time of radical renewal for radical film manifestos, and technologically empowered innovation? What do you think?

Collaboration, Art, and the Discourses of Participatory Film

Collaboration, Art, and the Discourses of Participatory Film

The discussion of collaborative approaches to making films has moved into prime position during the last year. It’s a very healthy situation for community-led film makers and bodes well for the future role of digital arts and participatory democracy. At last we have some worthy examples of theory, technology and practice working together in a creative fashion.

The BBC has recently featured a news item on an innovative collaborative film project to be called My Streets. The project has major establishment backers, and is perhaps another example of popular participation filtered through selective curators. The patchwork is a familiar model for the community portrait. Recurring themes will perhaps oscillate with chance collisions in the manner of collage.

We can celebrate the flickering poetry of surprise in the global 24 hour project Life in a Day which saw thousands of collaborators generate a feature length film curated by Kevin McDonald:

“I don't think this will take over all film-making or documentaries but it's an area of real interest. It's new and made possible by technology and the internet and the ability it gives you to communicate and upload things. It's uncharted territory. Life in a Day is a unique film and I think it will resonate with people who spend their lives on the internet and feel the sense of connection that the internet gives you.”

But mixing and matching and mashing do not need to confine themselves itself to the contemporary. Although Christian Marclay’s The Clock does function as a 24 hour clock, it is welded together from fragmentary moments in cinema when time is displayed on screen. Accordingly by a seemingly superhuman effort, the film is composed of thousands of fragments. The complex editing then creates the appearance of a flow in real time. The result is a pleasurable jarring and joining of contemporaneity and historicity. It’s as posthuman and postmodern as it’s humanistic and modernist. It’s a triumph of poetry over triviality.

One final example shows how a great film from the Soviet era can be folded into participatory engagement with our contemporary film makers. I speak of course of Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remake. As their website explains, the film is

“a participatory video shot by people around the world who are invited to record images interpreting the original script of Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera and upload them to this site. Software developed specifically for this project archives, sequences and streams the submissions as a film. Anyone can upload footage. When the work streams your contribution becomes part of a worldwide montage, in Vertov’s terms the ‘decoding of life as it is’.”

The film plays on oppositions and paradoxes; it is intrigue and entertainment. As Marclay says, ‘If I asked you to watch a clock tick, you would get bored quickly, but there is enough action in this film to keep you entertained, so you forget the time, but then you’re constantly reminded of it.’

Are these participatory and collaborative films the forerunners of a future based more on community and less on the selfish ego? Is there, daringly, or momentarily, a re-enchantment of the everyday through a rediscovery of the local and a witty and subversive remaking of the global?

But not everyone is positive. A school of writers is emerging that is broadly cynical about the social media networking movement. There are some common themes adopted by the critics of Web 2.0 as well as the progressive evangelists (real and constructed). In my next blog I will be discussing some of the recurring themes. We shall be taking an irreverent look at some of the cynical, cautionary, and dystopian approaches and I will attempt to given them a fair hearing.

Common rhetorical strategies for opposing Web 2.0 and proposing a model of cultural decline will be the subject of my next blog.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)