Emergent Morality #3 : To All Things: A Name. (And Address)

The previous emergent moralities have been

#1 : Thou shalt not impede the flow
#2 : Set thine information free

The third and last (I think) is:

#3 : To All Things: A Name. (And Address)

This one is more subtle.

A requirement for the Internet to function as a maximally huge AI experiment is that every single piece of information within it (and without it) needs to have a URI. A Unique/Universal/Uniform Resource Identifier.

A URI may be a
– URN : Unique/Universal/Uniform Resource Name
– URL : Unique/Universal/Uniform Resource Locator (or address)

eg: Romeo and Juliet:

– URN : ISBN 0486275574
– URL : http://www.example.com/example_directory/RomeoAndJuliet.html

A name and an address are the minimum requirements for information linkage.

Not supplying these to any piece of information is a crime against the internet. This is not (however) a strong morality, unless you are a blogger or developer… in which case then general reaction is generally a vague “Oh that sucks, I can’t link to it (or) I’ll have to copy it out by hand”. Information isn’t set free until it has a URN, and URL.

An example of this is the Whole Earth Catalog back-issue library that is now online…

whole earth

and although it’s a nice gesture, it sucks because you can’t cite anything. They’ve wrapped it up in some (fucking) flash wrapper so that the smallest granularity of linkage you can get is to an entire issue. Utterly useless.

Maybe it’s a lot of work transcribing all this to proper HTML?

It is, but I think that The Whole Earth Catalog is so beloved by it’s readers, that a lot of people might just help out for free… I know I would – especially if they allowed “translated by” links. The Whole Earth Catalog is the spiritual parent of all blogs – it was itself a type of paper-based blog, and there will never be another paper-based Whole Earth Catalog, because millions of its spiritual progeny are all over the web. We are all Whole Earth Catalog editors/writers now.

Maybe they want to make money from selling back-issues?

They can and they will – but we (fans) are their marketing arm now. We’re their radio station – and we evangelise by sharing their content. They can still make money selling physical stuff or services, but the days of selling information in it’s pure form (over and over again, forever) are… well, the environmental conditions are very much against it. And I don’t buy for a second that the idea of generating infinite wealth from a finite piece of work was ever a sustainable or moral concept in the first place. It’s certainly not a moral right, as the copyright cartels would have us believe.

The world has changed. The attention economy has arrived, and new patterns are emerging: Reputational-Capital is not built by locking your information behind money, but by encouraging your fans to free it.

To participate.

This means they can quote it, link to it, share it, embed it in other contexts and make derivative works. This way they become a stake-holder in your information, and will evangelise on your behalf. This is cheaper and more powerful than television advertising… and they’re not getting it for “free”, they’re working (and some of us work damned hard) to increase it’s value as an attention-economy asset.

Some people get this
Some people half get it
Some people are arse-over-tit backwards in getting it

Sure, the models for making money on the side are still emerging – but to try to legislate 20th Century Information-Transfer conditions into some sort of permanence is both trying to fight the tide, and is deeply, damaging culturally.

The age of participation is assiduously and belligerently rejecting the age of consumption. Adapt or die.

An interesting extension to this idea – is applying URIs to physical objects – part of Bruce Sterling’s Spime idea – and an essential part of automated manufacturing – where bills of materials can be sourced by what effectively amounts to hyperlinks. Web 3.0 will be involve (among other things) the application of URIs to physical objects.

Applying URIs to physical objects is also central to the UK governments wankingly clamorous desire to dog-tag all of its citizens (although technically, we aren’t citizens, we’re loyal subjects – we’re not owned by the government, we’re owned by The Queen). In some ways this isn’t such a stupid idea – but it needs to be completely transparent and-open sourced. We can’t trust the government to do this… because we can’t trust the government. Period. It has to be us that does it. The government needs to be taken apart and put back together anyway. It’s no longer fit for purpose.

The reason I think this is probably the last emergent morality is that they get more subtle by degrees… further down the track from this one is a whole raft of initiatives that well-meaning people have tried to establish as moral practices, but are turning out to be a colossal struggle… because (largely) the extra effort required in the implementation of these interfere with the “#1: Thou shalt not interfere with the flow“. So maybe things like micro-formats, and accessible-to-disabled-people HTML may be implemented at a “web-within-a-web” application level (eg: facebook), but at a Wild, Wild, Web level it’s never going to happen because speed of propagation always wins.

So there you go.


No Comments » for Emergent Morality #3 : To All Things: A Name. (And Address)
1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Emergent Morality #3 : To All Things: A Name. (And Address)"
  1. […] an aside, the site that this comes from is also a classic case of a breach of Emergent Morality #3 – which is concerned with naming and addressing content. They’ve wrapped everything up in a […]