social network experiment

Social networks are back and they’re increasingly popular (+1 for the internet). It’s not a new phenomena. They’ve been around since people have been socializing. There are good examples of people in the history books who’ve been amazing social networkers. Travellers like Marco Polo were a good example because of the ad-hoc networks of people he created and connected.

What makes it different now is the ability to bridge huge geographic distances using technology. The internet, cell-phones/sms are allowing people to share experiences and create social bonds where it was impossible before.
Places like myspace.com and hi5.com are all well and good, some neat things have happened because of them. What is truly amazing are things that have come out of communities formed from interest pooling. Look at Wikipedia, it now has more entries than the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Look at the Gutenberg project which has over 18,000 freely downloadable electronic copies of books published. Take a look at flickr or frappr.
I’ve edited some articles in Wikipedia and am a member of some groups on flickr. I have contributed bits of code to some opensource projects. I have come to be a little aware of the power of social networks. I wanted to see if I could actually get the ball rolling on a network of my own creation. I will obviously have to nurture what I create and spend inordinate amounts of time maintaining it and making it useful to a larger group of people. After a while, the hope is that it will take a life of it’s own, sort of evolve with interested community members helping it’s growth and sustenance.

With that in mind, I created Planet Nepal Wiki. It caters to a small subset of humanity. The primary goal is to capture bits and pieces about nepal, cultural nuggets and the like, that is not normally captured in written form. The sort of thing that is passed down orally through generations which have a potential in this increasingly uniform global landscape to completely disappear. The secondary goal is to create a community of users and contributors who have a vested interest in capturing that information, out of interest, a sense of cultural obligation or whatever. It may transform to be something else, I don’t know. I can’t make that call. That is part of the characteristics of social experiments. The crowd makes the decision. I have some awareness of the implications of that. There is less control, there is no heirarchical decision making body, the goals of the project are very prone to change, even the contents. Basically, there is uncertainty.

But that’s the challenge. To experience a different mode of working.

We shall contribute, and wait and see.

viva à l’inconnu (pardon my french).

On to the Planet Nepal Wiki then.

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can’t have laws for everything

In another recent district court ruling, the judge issued a preliminary injunction against the formation of a law that would restrict video game sales based on ratings. In my opinion, this is a good thing. I don’t deny that violent video games may induce violence inducing behaviour. For that matter, I don’t deny that violent movies may induce similar behaviour either, or tv news that show violence or anything else reported on the media today. I don’t believe that’s the root of the problem.

Creating a law just to curb the sale of such items is just a band-aid solution. It’s market economy at work. The industry will find another way to sell to their customers what is in high demand. You can’t butt heads with an emergent behaviour phenomena like market-economics and hope to succeed with just a regulation. The trick, I think, is to work with it. Work towards an environment where the economics of selling violent video games simply doesn’t work for the industry. There’s less incentive to produce it if there’s less demand for it.

The problem may lie in the way kids are raised increasingly in today’s world. It’s the lack of attention the children get. It’s the social coherence that increasing numbers of families are experiencing.With it comes belligerence, kids working to earn their own spending money and a whole host of other issues. Buying violent video games is simply just one of the symptoms of the huge social problems we have today in the US. Other issues like teenage drug addiction, drunk-driving, rates of high-school dropouts, teenage pregnancy all can probably be traced back to the same root cause. The parents are not at fault by themselves though. High cost of living, long work hours, lack of social infrastructure, lack of education are all to blame. It’s a classic downward spiral, each generation producing more of the same.

It’s easy to point out problems. I don’t have a solution for this. There are tons of people who realize it’s the root problem and are working towards solving it. I don’t see major changes changes and haven’t for a while. In fact, the problems are getting worse. The rate of the downward spiral is way higher than than the solutions people are coming up for it. I do see hope in grassroots movements created by communities. These have the best chances of working because they are the most passionate and they are in constant contact with the people they’re trying to help. It’s about people after all, not laws.

Norwegian wood

The book, not the song.
I just finished reading it. The english translation was superb. I can say this even though I cannot compare it to the original japanese version. It carries the careful unravelling of the protagonist’s emotions and feelings and in the process the complete picture of his personality the same way Murakami might have wanted it done. The story shows an uncanny resonance with the ripples of my own life, though, if I were to compare both fact by fact, I would find nothing in common. That’s storytelling for you.

The book made me think about suicide in the 1960s. Specifically, the suicide rate in Japan in the post-war era. There seems to have been a tremendous effort to shift social habits, culture and the likes at a national level in Japan after the war. Now, it seems, they have succeeded. But at what cost? There must have been huge perturbations during the 60s and the 70s in Japan, a total shift of the cultural consciousness of the Japanese.

I wonder if there’s research, or books on the subject, or have I pulled something out of thin air?