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Work. Oh my sweet desire!
Questioning what is and what is not.

In reading the Survey Report of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) about the use of the Internet by media related Trade Unions, I was struck by the pre-supposition that a rapid move to massive use of Information and Communication Technology is inevitable. But is it? It is interesting to note that even asking the question seems absurd. Does not everyone in the know realise that there is "no other way"? The authors of the report quote an earlier report by the International Committee of Entertainment and Media Unions (ICEMU) that states
The question posed of media unions is not to know whether or not the developing "digital age" is a positive step for our societies but rather to understand how new information technologies can be "tamed" and thus intelligently used for the benefits of all union members...
Trade Unions are in a rather unenviable position as they are caught in the cross fire between simultaneously needing to
  • have employers be successful if their members are to get satisfactory remuneration and therefor not undermining related commercial strategies, and
  • defend something more than simply the financial situation of those members to include their more general well-being and the well-being of society at large.
As far as the Information Society goes, if we react to things on their face value without considering the underlying values we may well not be able to deal satisfactorily with current difficulties. Why? Because the difficulties that the Information Society is supposed to solve, like unemployment, may well be the results of those unchallenged and unspoken values that underlie the use of the Information Society. The supposition I am making here is that not seeing the underlying values that are guiding our action can lead to serious misjudgements. Or more fundamentally that there are underlying values that are not always perceived and the non-perception of these underlying values inevitably leads to errors of judgement.

Why are such issues not addressed? Are those who raise the questions ostracised as Richard K. Morre suggests in his article about democracy and cyberspace? It is true that commercial interests hammer home the message that the "information age" is inevitable and desirable. What's more, they are aided and abetted by many of those who might have something to gain from questioning that logic, trade unions, for example. To what extent is this singular vision of an inevitable, highly desirable Information Society, so strong that it hinders our seeing things any other way?

My suspicion is that this inevitability and this desirability are commercial arguments that cover up fudamental questions, brushing away any possibility of exploring them and of deciding for ourselves. So what can we do? The answer certainly doesn't lie in pointing fingers, raising voices or taking arms but rather in asking each other questions. How so? If unspoken assumptions dictate our perceptions and as a consequence our acts, we must first have the courage to uncover those tacit assumptions. What is meant by the words we use? What are the unspoken assumptions behind our acts and our arguments? How do those assumptions once revealed tally with reality? We need to compare our perceptions with those of others and in so doing test them against other "realities". The hope is that, by creating a rift in a seemingly faultless logic we catch a glimpse of other possible perceptions of the way things are and open the road to breaking the hold of such all embracing over-simplifications as "the Information Society is necessarily good for all of us".

In asking each other questions (and offering answers to them) we are acting on two related essential levels:
  1. As individuals we work on our own perceptions by becoming aware of and questioning our own assumptions and by being more open and alert to other perspectives.
  2. Collectively we work together creating shared intelligence (intelligence in the sense of a fine knowledge of the topology of the land) .. and it is only collectively that we can know and it is only in that knowing that we can act appropriately. More about that assumption later.
Alan McCluskey, Saint-Blaise. Share or comment
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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey, info@connected.org
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Created: October 16th, 1997 - Last up-dated: October 16th, 1997