Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

The World is Neither Flat Nor Round (It's Lumpy -- and Fractal)

BY Colin Delany | Wednesday, June 16 2010

The world is lumpy

Cross-published from Epolitics.com

Fun thought question from Michael Clements, moderator of yesterday's Digital Capital Week/Future of Media panel: if the world was once flat, then round, then flat again (at least, according to Thomas Friedman), what shape will it be in five years? The audience fired back several good answers, but the idea that popped into my head and stuck there was "lumpy."

What do I mean by that? Imagine the media world as a physical object resembling a 20-sided D&D die, but with many more points, each of them a publishing outlet. Some points will poke out more (the New York Times), others much less (some random dude's Twitter feed), but each of them projects some distance above the surface and demands our attention. As you get closer to the surface, you'd see more and more outlets, but they'll follow the same pattern over and over: you'll always see a handful of prominent voices accompanied by many smaller ones, which in turn are surrounded by smaller ones, which in turn are surrounded by...(you guessed it) smaller ones.

In this model, in other words, the arrangement of points would be fractal (a term also tossed out as an answer to the shape-of-the-world question), meaning that the distribution is the same whether you're talking about the macro level (the top online publishers) or the micro level (the handful of blogs and Twitter feeds about some obscure film genre). Dude, whoa.

Another description from the audience was "ethereal," which captures the cloud-like (and constantly shifting) web of connections among online voices, something that my model could incorporate if the points could move around relative to one another (imagine Brownian motion-style vibration, but with more vigor). Fun stuff! And if this model is accurate, let's hope that our own points keep rising -- like mountains driven up by clashing tectonic plates, only more quickly.

cpd

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

monday >

Tweets2Rue Helps Homeless to Help Themselves Through Twitter

While most solutions to homelessness focus on addressing physical needs -- a roof over the head and food to eat -- one initiative in France known as Tweets2Rue knows that for the homeless, a house is still not a home, so to speak: the homeless are often entrenched in a viscous cycle of social isolation that keeps them invisible and powerless. GO

Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network

In Oakland, a city with deep roots in radical activism and a growing tech scene at odds with the hyper-capital-driven Silicon Valley, those at the Sudo Room hackerspace believe that the solution to a wide range of problems, from censorship to the digital divide, is a mesh net, a type of decentralized network that is resilient to censorship and disruption and can also bring connectivity to poor communities.

GO

More