Monthly Archives: September 2007

Dig up your front lawn

When I was outside unloading materials to expand our vege garden on what used to be our front lawn, Richard Scott from National Radio’s This way up show was talking about it.

On Saturday’s show Richard ran an excerpt about a group of gardeners who are converting lawns to gardens. Edible Estates “is an ongoing series of projects to replace the American [sic] front lawn with edible garden landscapes responsive to culture, climate, context and people.” They say hire a sod-cutter and start planting. A local angle was provided by a visit to the community garden in Tanera Park near Aro Valley. Listen to the “Gardening Time” show on demand (using Real Player) or as a downloadable MP3. (I’ve got a copy if weren’t able to visit the Radio NZ website before the programme self-combusted after four weeks or so).

Another listening hightlight this week was Laura Flander’s 12 September Radio Nation feature on the 75th anniversay of the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee. The Center has been instrumental in giving rise to the civil rights and union movements in the United States, and something of an inspiration for people involved in social change around the world. Laura brings to life the history of the Center with protest songs, oral history and archival recordings.

The programme brought to mind the Kotare Trust education centre based near Wellsford. The centre supports grassroots social movements, community organisings and activists, and runs excellent participatory learning sessions. Having travelled down the dusty Wayby Station Road near Wellsford to participate in a workshop or gathering, I’ve always returned rejuvenated by the peaceful rural setting and fired up by the comradarie.

I think the Highlander Center’s influence has been felt at Kotare (though I know little of the detail), so I’m going to put a copy of the radio in the post up to the folk up north. May Kotare take heed from Highlander’s longetivity and liveliness.

Flailing at web 2.0

I had a disasterous lunchtime session yesterday when I attempted to demonstrate the potential of web 2.0. I could rant and rave about how unfair the world is technology is not foolproof, or perhaps mull on a lesson or two.

My personal guided tour was going to take in social networking, wikis, blogging, social bookmarking, and Technorati’s blogspheric roadmap (see the full list here).

Fortunately the session was a one-on-one and Diana didn’t seem too perturbed. Acutally, when technology fails people are remarkably tolerant. Problems connecting datashows, dropped internet connections and the all too common missing extension cord conspire to interrupt the flow. Yet hardly anyone ever complains.

We ended up having a good yarn, and we’ve agreed to try again.

Next time I’ll be absolutely sure I can connect to the Internet. Try as I might, I just couldn’t log-in to my wireless cafenet account. As soon as I got back to the office I tried to connect again. I logged in first time, despite being about 150 metres from a wireless hotspot. Yes, the inconstancy is annoying, incomprehensible, frustrating but par for the course when using technology.

Yeah, so for a tip straight from presenter 101 course: test your technology beforehand if you want to make sure it works on the night.

Believe the hype – e.govt barcamp, Wellington

barcampWellingtonNZegov logoWhen I was away sunning myself in Arthurs Pass at the weekend, an unofficial e.govt participatory workshop was held in Wellington. Run on self-organising principles, ala open space technology, about 100 people attended to talk about things important to them in the e-government field. Called a barcamp, the event was similar to other (un)conferences (sic) springing up around the globe.

The one person who attended I talked to said it fascinating, though a little scary to someone not working in the IT industry. I went online to find out other reactions. Here’s what some of the blogging participants have said:

  • It rocked! Maupuia Calling blog
  • It was inspiring to see very clued-in government people aware of and eager to fix issues around “how to make e-government better in New Zealand”. Brian on the Silverstripe blog
  • Bar Camp was pretty cool. Rebecca Cox blogging at Magnificent Paws
  • It was relaxed, collaborative, and people seemed to be willing to share more openly and talk about contentious issues [than the GOVIS conference]. Julian Carver on the Seradigm blog
  • I stopped by the Fronde hosted barcamp session around e-government and was pleasantly surprised. Eduard Liebenberger on Speed kills – Agility for IT professionals blog
  • It was fantastic to be able to talk to people, especially government people in an informal context and to openly discuss challenges, successes and whatever any session/discussion randomly led us to. Sandy Mamoli frying up at Eggs benedict and two flat whites
  • A great day. Jim Donovan, on En Avante
  • On balance, an excellent day, glad I attended. Dave, Mike or Malcolm on No Wombats blog.

As much as any geeky IT event can be, sounded kinda fun.

Citizen Rogue, Tara Hunt – who seeded the idea of a Wellington barcamp when she was visiting to present at the 2007 Govis conference – should be chuffed. (Read my post about the conference “Fogged in after Govis“).

Take a look at the official Wellington e.govt barcamp wiki to find out more.

Shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism – sneak preview

Before Naomi Klein’s new book is available on the shelves here in Aotearoa I’ve managed to learn quite a bit about the central thesis. Klein, well remembered as author of No Logo – a searing analysis of corporate advertising – and her reporting from the frontline at numerous WTO protests, now turns her attention to an analysis of how “America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries”.

The Shock Doctrine provides an analysis of the havoc market dominated politics/ economics are causing. The extreme economic theories of Milton Freidman and panderings of politicians to capitalist elites are  closely scrutinised. Examples of the imposition of a market model are sourced from many places around the globe, including post Sri Lanka, Poland, Chile, Iraq and post-Katrina New Orleans.

Having listened to a couple of interviews and read an extract, I get the sense Klein is undaunted by the scale of market forces dominating the globe. As this quote from a speech to the 2007 American Sociological Association annual conference last month shows, she suggests people power can still win out.

The quest to impose a single world market has casualties now in the millions, from Chile then to Iraq today. These blueprints for another world were crushed and disappeared because they are popular and because, when tried, they work. They’re popular because they have the power to give millions of people lives with dignity, with the basics guaranteed. They are dangerous because they put real limits on the rich, who respond accordingly. Understanding this history, understanding that we never lost the battle of ideas, that we only lost a series of dirty wars, is key to building the confidence that we lack, to igniting the passionate intensity that we need.

Klein’s full ASA speech, “From Think Tanks to Battle Tanks”, can be heard or watched on Amy Goodman’s 15 August Democracy Now tv show or downloaded as an MP3.

To help get her message across, Klein is being helped out by film-maker Alfonso Cuarón. A seven minute clip has been posted on You Tube, though exactly where I have yet to find, and Quicktime and Windows media versions are available for download on her Shock Doctrine book site. I however did find on You Tube a six part presentation by Klein to a relatively recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives fundraising meeting (see episode one).

Before I get overwhelmed by the dazzling array of multi-media options, I think I would rather sit down with a copy of the new book (from the library of course) and a cuppa tea. Second best, a couple of articles printed out from the Guardian. There’s already a couple of book extracts (Exploiting Disaster and Homeland Security), with a promise of more to come this week.

It will be a while before I get to see a copy of her book, but my appetite is whetted by her prolific online salvos.

Hearing from fathers on The Couch

For quite a while we’ve wanted to get an up-to-date snapshot pressures, concerns, and joys faced by fathers. Mothers tend to be very vocal and find the time to get on to The Couch, but poll results suggeted the dads were not so forthcoming.

So, on father’s day we launched a poll asking for replies just from dads. We’ve asked about role models, access to information on being a father, the nature of the role and time spent with their children, plus we’ve left some space for men to share views on highs and lows.

After just over a week 7% of members have completed the poll.

I’m hoping a few more blokes might get online and let us know about being a dad. Pass on the message to dads you know.