Sunday, 31 January 2016

The promises of technological innovation >>> >>> "Community Technology" and the World in 1979

There is always the 'promise' of innovation through technology:
Futures Forum: The promises of technological innovation >>> The World in 2016

But actually how much 'technological innovation' is just a waste of time, money and resources?
Futures Forum: Planned Obsolescence: and The Men Who Made Us Spend
Futures Forum: VW... and making 'wholly opaque disposable vehicles' >>> rather than making vehicles which 'run for a long time and are easy to fix'
Futures Forum: Technological unemployment and the Luddite fallacy

You might not know this Oscar-winning documentary from 1980, based on the 1979 book 'Community Technology':

Karl Hess on Appropriate/Community Technology - YouTube

It was very much of its time certainly, but more interest is being shown today in its visionary and practical implications:

Out of the Streets, Into the Community

Nick Ford | | December 27th, 2015

A Review of Karl Hess’s Community Technology

Hess practically started the libertarian movement with his essay, The Death of Politics. It was published in (of all things) Playboy in March of 1969. Its publication led to the wider recognition of the libertarian movement as an actual movement...
Community Technology was published in 1979 and tells the story of Karl Hess’s experiences in neighborhood organizing for self-reliance and political freedom via alternative technologies...

To move towards an alternative community Hess advocates the use of technology. The problem with technology for Hess was that it is too often seen as a tool to be used exclusively for growth or money. But Hess demurs and calls for a “reassessment” of the proper use of technology; for it to be used to further community driven projects, not just for the pecuniary gain of large-scale organizations.

For Hess, this book is particularly for people who’d at least consider such a shift.

Throughout the book Hess tries to undermine the idea that people had when he was writing this and still unfortunately have: That community and technology aren’t necessarily related ideas. They are instead places to start and move towards bigger things. Such examples include corporate structures, governments, bureaucratic ways of dealing with human relations, etc.

Hess rejects this process, saying that the themes of anonymity, pre-packaged reality and the distancing of humans from the material world can be the only end result.

Instead of presuming this, Hess encourages us to assume that people want to live in an environment in which they have more control over their lives. They can enjoy their own work, know other people in the community and have more choice in their political arrangements...

Alternative ways of collecting energy were discussed and in some cases implemented. And the Institute for Local Self-Reliance was formed and still exists today...

Technology has thus been relegated to be seen as something we buy and not something we create, not something for the betterment of communities.

Part of reclaiming technology is to (as Hess says) demystify it. For if we don’t technology shall rule us, or rather the individuals who control that technology will control us. The demystification must come through the free exchange and access of knowledge about things. To aid this free exchange there should be local groups dedicated to these pursuits within the community. Hence this demystification of technology must come in tandem with liberating the very concept of communities. That’s because we need a space to use the tools that’ll also liberate the space around it. Given this, the relationship of community and technology are very synergistic.

But what might this “necessary material base” for freer communities look like?

Hess lists many suggestions: hydroponic setups in green houses, vacant lots, rooftops, the use of aquaculture for the production of food, chicken and fish, solar energy for localized efficiency and more.

We see this happening with political movements like the Free State Project (FSP) that. And while the FSP has certainly a bigger goal than just a community, it stems from similar ideas of intentional and alternative communities. Obviously this is not an exact comparison but I think it’s a relatively decent modern comparison.

Community and technology as concepts have, unfortunately, not changed very much from how they were viewed during the time Hess wrote Community Technology.

Technology is still viewed as a way to get people to work in hierarchically organized factories or stores. Technology is still just a way to help out the biggest corporations instead of the smallest communities struggling for more local liberty....

“If efficiency is seen in terms of satisfying the consumerist model of human life, then the anonymous city (where a person may consumer anything without appearing foolish or profligate to nose neighbors) is a splendid milieu, the production line factory a splendid workshop, and gadget-glitter technology a titillating glory. IF, on the other hand, efficiency is seen as the way in which a situation reflects the creative mode, the community mode, the human being as an active and not passive, then smaller-scale ways of living together may be viewed as serviceable.”...

Hess advised in the book that the practices of the community technology groups should be interested in challenging the economies of scale communities are said to not be able to handle. To demystify technology so it seems something inherently public and a part of everyday life instead of a master of the public.
Literally thousands of small communities online can be used to bring together people with similar beliefs about how communities should be dealt with.

One fine example of this is the Resilient Communities Project which is a project designed to create communities that, “…are decentralized[,] that anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.” which is a lot of what Hess wanted to see.

For more on resilient communities you can find information here and here.

Center for a Stateless Society » Out of the Streets, Into the Community

See also:
Resilient Freedom
Karl Hess on Alternative Technology | Open Source Ecology

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