Thursday, October 27, 2005

Politics in the Age of Information

In line with the news item presented below, here is an excerpt of a paper I wrote on the politics of the digital revolution.

We live in a continually evolving world polity. In an age where individuals are increasingly aware of what exist outside of the personal spaces they inhabit, and indeed in a time where it is relatively facile to move out of the spaces they have known all their lives, what is global, what is international, what is transnational is increasingly local and domestic. The developments in the technological, political and socio-economic realm have eclipsed each and every one of our notions of humanity. To continue viewing the world through dichotomies that artificially separate the domestic and international, the economic and political, are the gravest of follies anyone can commit.

With the view that social structures and their concomitant processes are products of historical change, we examine the notions of power and society in a world indelibly marked by information revolution. We ask, what do we mean exactly by ‘information revolution’?

We argue that power today is more the ability to exclude from access to vital information embodied in networks and institutions. We also argue that world politics in this age of information remains much as it has been for the past few centuries; one wherein struggles for dominance and power preside over human activities. The information revolution is yet another matrix, venue or stage wherein these struggles are juxtaposed...

...We attempt to reveal the structures that underlie what so many digerati claim as a new frontier wherein netizens are all plugged in as equals. Where humanity has the capacity to transcend differences, and create a harmonious world. We attempt to explode this utopian drivel and interpret today’s realities through open and conscious eyes.

It is also useful to address myths by taking them more seriously. If in fact their value is determined less by their empirical truth or falsity but rather by whether they are living or dead, then the question is not are they true but what keeps them alive. Myths are sustained by social practices that involve the leadership of iconic story tellers whose accomplishments in one area live them a platform to promote mythic story-telling (Mosco, 2001: 7).

By these ‘iconic’ storytellers Mosco means those who unequivocally see the increasing informationalization of society as a good when they are in fact speaking for particular interests and at the same time creating a misleading depiction of what the new advances in technology and the so-called information society is all about. He cautions us in the wholesale buying of the idea of globalization and the information age which has acquired such gloss and such demagogical baggage that it does not leave for a deeper unearthing of its dynamics underneath.

What is Information?

Information is not something we knowingly consume as we have in the past, but something that reaches us instantaneously and injects us the message. An interesting question therefore is what is this message?

Information today is presentational instead of representational as in the past. Art such as paintings, sculptures and works of fiction are representations of reality. They are information relaying to us depictions of what is ‘real.’ Information today however presents a message as factual, not leaving time or space for reflection as to whether the message is at all true or indeed relevant. In real life, this kind of information reaches us through the media.

Next we consider information in four perspectives. William Martin gives us four such perceptions (1995: 19-21).

Information-as-thing. Here knowledge is differentiated from information in that the former must be expressed or represented to make it tangible. To make knowledge tangible it must be communicated. The tangible form is information.

Information-as-resource. It is seen as any kind of natural endowment that can be harnessed from the environment (i.e. oil, minerals, wood etc.).

Information-as-commodity. Here it is treated as any commodity gaining value as it progresses through the various steps of creation, processing, storage, distribution and use.

Information-as-constitutive-force-in-society. “Information is not just affected by its environment, but is itself an actor affecting other elements in its environment. Information is not just embedded within a social structure, but creates the structure itself (1995: 21).”

What is the Information Society?

It is said that we are moving into a post-industrial society where increasingly production has diversified into services instead of manufacturing (to the detriment of the latter). Thus, production has become highly dependent on the possession and manipulation of information.

The Information Society is a society in which the quality of life, as well as prospects for social change and economic development depend increasing on information and its exploitation. In such a society, living standards, patterns of work and leisure, education and market place are all influenced markedly by advances in information and knowledge…This is evidenced by an increasing array of information-sensitive products and services, commoditized through a wide range of media, many of them electronic in nature (Martin, 1995: 3).

What is Power in the Information Age?

Our conception of power in the age of information is seen and investigated through different (and complementary to the traditional conceptions) lenses.

In this new economy of knowledge-intensive production, power arises more from the exclusion of actors from access to information. This exclusion is enabled through intellectual property.

“Real property in the means of production carries with it the right to exploit. Intellectual property carries with it the right to exclude (Lash, 2002: 24).”

Intellectual property rights are then enforced through political will and political institutions. The very nature of the information economy being global has made it difficult for individual states to enforce these rights. Therefore, politically-instituted international regimes such as the World Trade Organization (Which has now subsumed the World Intellectual Property Organization) have been designated the task. The WTO is increasingly becoming the battle grounds of defending the right to exclude.

This exclusion is also synonymous to exclusive right to exploit, to make profit from. For this exclusion to occur, information must necessarily be commoditized.

Knowledge is collectively produced and is not inherently scarce, it only acquires a commodity form insofar as it is made artificially scare and access thereto depends on payment of rent… It is worth noting here at least three processes involved in transforming knowledge into a fictitious commodity: the first is its formal transformation from a collective resource ('intellectual commons') into intellectual property (e.g., patent, copyright) as a basis for revenue generation; the second is the formal subsumption of knowledge production under exploitative class relations through the separation of intellectual and manual labour and the transformation of the former into wage labour producing knowledge for the market; and the third is the real subsumption of intellectual labour and its products under capitalist control through their commoditisation and integration into a networked, digitised production-consumption process that is controlled by capital (Jessop).

These seemingly innocuous events are increasingly becoming the norm in today’s scramble for exclusivity-in-use. Power in the information age then stems from the capacity to exclude other actors from access to and profiting from these life forms/modes of doing things. In an era where the creation of wealth is increasingly dependent on being plugged-in into the information network, exclusion from it promises to be detrimental to material and intangible well-being of people.

It is therefore the increasing preoccupation of world powers to appropriate as much knowledge/information as they can.

World Summit on the Information Society: Who Controls the Net?

The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society will see the gathering of world leaders in Tunisia on November 16-18 2005. The WSIS was set into motion by the International Telecommunications Union in 1998. The United Nations General Assembly then endorsed the framework set by the ITU Council. The WSIS addresses the impacts of the digital revolution to the lives of everyone on the planet. Aside from tackling issues of governance, the summit also addresses issues of global inequality in access to information.

As in issues of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Trade in Agriculture, the economic giants are once again at odds on the issue of Internet governance. The European Union, as well as other developing countries are challenging US dominance of the management of the Internet.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wisdom of the Ancients

Some of the strangest sex advice in the last couple of millenia in John Naish's "Put What Where?!: Over 2,000 Years of Bizarre Sex Advice."

How to pull
“Pick the woman’s worst feature and then make it appear desirable. Tell an older woman that she looks young. Tell an ugly woman that she looks ‘fascinating’.” Philaenis, papyrus sex manual (2BC)

Go blondes!
“All women are lascivious but auburn blondes the most. A little straight forehead denotes an unbridled appetite in lust.” Giovanni Sinibaldi, Rare Verities: the Cabinet of Venus Unlock’d (1658)

Buns and corsets cause nymphomania
“Constricting the waist by corsets prevents the return of blood to the heart, overloads sexual organs and causes unnatural excitement of the sexual system. The majority of women follow the goddess Fashion and so also wear their hair in a heavy knot. This great pressure on their small brains produces great heat and chronic inflammation of their sexual organs. It is almost impossible that such women should lead other than a life of sexual excess.” Dr John Cowan, The Science of a New Life (1888)

On the other hand . . .
“The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind.” Dr William Acton, Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1858)

Indian enlargement
“Rub your penis with the bristles of certain insects that live in trees, and then, after rubbing it for ten nights with oils, rub it with the bristles as before. Swelling will be gradually produced. Then lie on a hammock with a hole in it and hang the penis through the hole. Take away the pain from the swelling by using cool concoctions. The swelling lasts for life.” Kamasutra, translated by Sir Richard Burton and F. F. “Bunny” Arbuthnot (1883)

Climaxes can kill
“Fainting, vomiting, involuntary urination, epilepsy and defecation have occurred in young men after first coitus. Lesions of various organs have taken place. In men of mature age the arteries have been unable to resist the high blood pressure and cerebral haemorrhage with paralysis has occurred. In elderly men the excitement of intercourse with young wives or prostitutes has caused death.” Havelock Ellis, Psychology of Sex: a Manual for Students (1933)

How often?
“The ordinary man can safely indulge about four times a month. More than that would be excess for a large majority of civilised men and women.” Lyman B. Sperry, Confidential Talks with Husband and Wife: a Book of Information and Advice for the Married and Marriageable (1900)

Single-handed signs
“Look at the habitual masturbator! See how thin, pale and haggard he appears; how his eyes are sunken; how long and cadaverous is his cast of countenance; how irritable he is and how sluggish, mentally and physically; how afraid he is to meet the eye of his fellow, feel his damp and chilling hand, so characteristic of great vital exhaustion.” Dr Henry Guernsey, Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects (1882)

Never marry these women
“Redheads. Any girl named after a mountain, a tree, a river or a bird. Ones with rough hands or feet. Ones who sigh, laugh or cry at meals. Any girl with inverted nipples, a beard, uneven breasts, flap ears, spindle legs or who is scrawny. Girls whose big toes are disproportionately small. Girls who make the ground shake when they walk past.” Koka Shastra, The Indian Scripture of Koka (12th century)

And, if you can’t find it, don’t worry
“The clitoris, while important, is not nearly as important as many of us have been taught or led to believe.” Edward Podolsky, Sex Technique for Husband and Wife (1947)

But whatever you do ...
“Never fool around sexually with a vacuum cleaner.” Dr Alex Comfort, The Joy of Sex (1972)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Driving While Female

Makati City has become more familiar to me in the last two years since my boyfriend lived there when I first met him. I know the business district passably well, certainly more so in the last couple of years than the twenty-three odd ones before.

I especially know the area around Greenbelt because I am there at least once a month to shop or see the latest film fests. And so, I know that there are never any traffic enforcers on that "Forty Winks" intersection (Pasong Tamo and that other street I forget) going to the Greenbelt 1 parking area. It can be safe to say then that one can harmlessly ignore the "No right turn on the red signal" sign post conspicuously planted next to the traffic light as long as one ensures that one is turning right when all the cars from the other side of the road have safely crossed. Yesterday proved an exception as two conspicuously planted Makati City biker patrollers, in their white polo shirts and royal blue shorts hailed me as soon as I ignored the politely offered traffic suggestion.

What is strangely funny is, not a few moments before, I was gleefully recounting to my friend Arlene, the finer arts of charming your way out of a traffic violation. She had warned me that MMDA officers are now in the full swing of the holiday season in their early collection of "pamasko" from unsuspecting motorists. I recounted my own strategies on how to avoid parting with your money or driver's license.

It is an advantage if one is wearing a low-cut blouse. One can position one's torso and shoulders in such a way that distracts and persuades like no uttered words or pleading can. If one has reasonably well-shaped legs and one is wearing a short skirt, then by all means, open the driver's door instead of merely cracking open the window to show them in their full glory.

One's chance of being let go with a stern warning and a 20 second lecture about a driver's responsibilities and whatnot doubles when one is lucky enough to be wearing both a revealing blouse and shorts or skirt. Lucky for me, yesterday I had chosen to don cream pants and a blouse whose neckline hugged my collarbone.

Unarmed with my weapons of choice, I had to resort to other talents. Since I am over 20, the crying, scared bit just doesn’t work anymore. Firstly, one has to be polite and respectful. Always say the requisite “po” or “opo” even if your apprehending officer doesn’t seem overly aged. Alternate between smiles and a “little-girl-lost” expression depending on the situation. Play up the damsel in distress bit on every opportunity given.

Officer: “Ma’am, did you see the no right turn sign over there? You just violated a city ordinance.”

Me: (flutter eyelashes) Oh really??? I’m so sorry I didn’t see! I was just looking at the other side of the intersection waiting for the cars to pass, as soon as it was clear I just made the turn.

Officer: (Stern smile) Your driver’s license please.

Do not hesitate to lie. But never attempt to do so if you can’t deliver with grace.

Me: You see, I’m from Kalookan. I’m not in this area often, so I’m not familiar with the ordinances. And sir, I honestly didn’t see the sign. I hadn’t seen my friend in a long time so we were busy chattering.

Officer: (cursory glance at my friend on the passenger’s seat)

One must not be ashamed to play the dumb chick next to the apprehending officer’s superior logic and smarts. One must always agree, remember always with a smile or a confused frown, with whatever he says.

Officer: Ma’am this is city ordinance we strictly enforce. You see, if I don’t issue you a ticket, you will not remember this violation and you’re likely to do it again.

Me: Oh, but sir, I assure you I will never do this again. I’m not always in the area. I swear I didn’t see the sign!

Officer: (macho man-ish) You do agree that I am right, that you won’t remember to follow the rules if I don’t penalize you for your transgression. You admit that I’m right and you’re wrong.

In the three years that I’ve been teaching I have learned that the tone of voice is a powerful thing. It can intimidate, inspire, move, censure, mock or cajole depending on the need. When it looks like things won’t go your way, remember to keep your voice flustered, a bit panicky and always, always sweet. Sweet in a little-girl helpless way.

Me: (breathy) Oh yes sir, I know I’m totally wrong! But can you please let me go on a warning just this time?

Officer: (goes to his comrade with the ticket book)

When it looks like you officer is unrelenting, offer to do the right thing and do your duty as a responsible citizen of the country.

Office: Ma’am you’ll have to claim your license at the Makati City hall.

Me: Can I get it today?

Officer: Oh, no. Monday to be safe. It’s already late and the city hall closes at five.

Me: Oh, where is it?

Officer: On JP Rizal.

Me: Where is that?

Officer: Err. You can reach it through Guadalupe.

Me: (confused frown, fluttery breath) I’m so sorry sir, but I’m not sure where that is!

When one has amply demonstrated one’s total helplessness and utter sweetness, one moves in for the kill.

Me: Sir, are you sure you can’t just let me go this one time. I’ll remember this and I promise never to do this again. What’s your name?

Officer: (flustered) Rolly.

Me: Rolly, I’ll remember this I promise.

Officer: (puffed chest, confused frown, utter resignation) Oh alright. Here’s your license.

Grateful, flushed with adrenalin after having scaled that tiny mountain, I drove away in smug satisfaction that contrary to common knowledge, women are not, in fact, the weaker sex.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When The Voices In My Head Stop Talking

Since I have been in a writing glut for quite some time now, I've wanted to write about so many things; from politics, to my life's frustrations, to my mother, my dead father, my deadbeat brother and of course, the staple movie reviews. Usually my writing process begins in the car. An idea pops into my head and for the rest of the drive my blog entry sort of just assembles itself. As soon as I'm on my computer my fingers move over the keyboard by themselves. Hence the ocasional mispeling and grammaticals error.

Some people even note my tenses don't match. Oh well. Like I said, I don't read fiction (except for my precious historical romances with half-nekkid caucasians on the cover). And since I'm not used to reading fiction (and rarely have the interest except when its set in a foreign land some centuries past with lotsa love scenes) I'm not used to keeping my timeline right. Oh well.

Another hazard of being trilingual ("quintilingual" if you count Ilocano and Pangasinense) is that sometimes I "lose" words. In the middle of a sentence, usually when addressing my class, I would frequently forget the word in English but remember it in French. Or forget it in Tagalog but remember it in French. And since French is my fifth language, I, of course, forget a lot of my French. This hazard also applies to writing. The voices in my head usually speak to me in English, and so, as you will note, most of my entries are English. But increasingly, in the past months other voices have encroached. Sometimes they all come to me in a jumble of languages. How then will I write a coherent blog entry?

Lastly, since my blog has gained a following of 20, I now feel "pressure" to write brilliant entries. My blog is here to entertain, inspire, move mountains. I sometimes read my previous ones (yes those links to the right) and wonder how in the heck I was able to write them. Maybe because, aside from the inspiration given me by my frequent drives in the Metro, I also write when I read. When I read a lot. And since I haven't been reading (except my historicals), I haven't been writing. I should get back to reading. A lot.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

EBAYING is dangerous to your health

I've more books and other stuff on sale at ebay.....Please click here!!!!!!!

The Philippines is...

Just so I have something to post....yet another forwarded e-mail. Shoot me now.

50. Where the most happening places are not where the party is. Instead it's where the gang wars happen, where women strip and where the people overthrow a president.

49. Where even doctors, lawyers and engineers are unemployed.

48. Where everyone has his personal ghost story.

47. Where mountains like Makiling and Banahaw are considered holy places.

46. Where everything can be forged.

45. Where school is considered the second home and the mall considered the third.

44. Where Starbucks coffee is more expensive than gas.

43. Where every street has a basketball court and every town only has one public school.

42. Where all kinds of animals are edible.

41. Where people speak all kinds of languages, and still call it Tagalog.

40. Where students pay more money than they will earn afterwards.

39. Where call-center employees earn more money than teachers and nurses.

38. Where driving 4 kms can take as much as four hours.

37. Where flyovers bring you from the freeway to the side streets.

36. Where the tourist spots are where Filipinos do not (or cannot) go.

35. Where the personal computer is mainly used for games and Friendster.

34. Where all 13-year-olds are alcoholic.

33. Where colonial mentality is dishonestly denied!

32. Where 4 a.m. is not even considered bedtime yet.

31. Where people can pay to defy the law.

30. Where everything is spoofed.

29. Where even the poverty-stricken get to wear Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger!

28. Where the honking of car horns is a way of life.

27. Where being called a bum is never offensive.

26. Where floodwaters take up more than 90 percent of the streets during the rainy season.

25. Where everyone has a relative abroad who keeps them alive.

24. Where crossing the street involves running for your dear life.

23. Where wearing your national colors makes you baduy.

22. Where billiards is a sport, and darts is a bar game.

21. Where even the poverty-stricken have the latest cell phones. (GSM-galing sa magnanakaw)

20. Where insurance does not work.

19. Where water can only be classified as tap and dirty - clean water is for sale (35 pesos per gallon).

18. Where the church governs the people and where the government makes the people pray for miracles. (Amen to that!)

17. Where University of the Philippines is where all the weird people go. Ateneo is where all the nerds go. La Salle is where all the Chinese go. College of Saint Benilde is where all the stupid Chinese go, and University of Asia and the Pacific is where all the irrelevantly rich people go.

16. Where fast food is a diet meal.

15. Where traffic signs are merely suggestions, not regulations.

14. Where all the trees in the city are below six feet.

13. Where being held up is normal. It happens to everyone.

12. Where kids dream of becoming pilots, doctors and basketball players.

11. Where rodents are normal house pets.

10. Where the definition of traffic is the "non-movement" of vehicles.

9. Where the fighter planes of the 1940s are used for military engagements, and the new fighter planes are displayed in museums.

8. Where Nora Aunor is an acclaimed actress and Boy Abunda is the best talk show host.

7. Where cigarettes and alcohol are a necessity, and where the lottery is a commodity.

6. Where soap operas tell the realities of life and where the news provides the drama.

5. Where actors make the rules and where politicians provide the entertainment. (Kung gusto mo mapikon, watch the news.)

4. Where finding a deer on the road will be a phenomenon. (May deer dito? Seryoso kayo?)

3. Where people can get away with stealing trillions of pesos, but not for a thousand.

2. Where being an hour late is still considered punctual. (Grabe talaga 'to!)

1. Where everyone wants to leave the country! (Ang saya-saya!)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Français 2, Epreuve 3, Question 4

Décrivez la personne sur la photo (physique, qu’est-ce qu’elle porte…). Que pensez-vous de son esprit ?

Comme j’ai oublié d'apporter la photo, j’ai demandé à mes étudiants à décrire leur chère prof. Moi.

Réponses intéressantes :

« Mademoiselle n’est pas attirante mais elle est mignonne pour moi. Comme Judy Anne Santos, elle est ronde… Aujourd’hui elle porte une chemise bleu ciel et un pantalon blanc. Ses chaussures sont noires. Elle est de bonne humeur (peut-être) parce qu’elle a pu regarder Pinoy Big Brother hier soir. »


« Je pense que la mademoiselle est jeune vraiment. Elle semble forte…Elle est sérieuse. Mais je pense qu’elle est peut- être un enfant, heureuse parfois. »


« Je crois qu’elle est très drôle parce qu’elle blague beaucoup. Souvent, elle se parle aussi. C’est pourquoi je me demande si elle est déjà folle. Mais elle enseigne bien. »


« Mademoiselle est très sympathique, très drôle et très intelligente. Elle nous aime, je crois. Maintenant elle semble inquiète. Je pense que c’est parce que nous prenons l’examen et elle nous voudrait faire bien. Elle est une bonne prof comme ça. Elle nous dit qu’elle a faim. Moi aussi, j’ai faim. »