April 26, 2004 | Peter

My Last Blog Entry

This is my last ‘Ambit Gambit’ blog entry. In it I’ll make a few comments on how I think the whole Internet thing is going.
The Internet is undoubtedly an amazing invention, perhaps as important in its long–term impact as writing. The form still has some way to go to be really broadly functional (and cheap), but it presents genuine possibilities to change the way we do a number of very important things. Unfortunately, we have not yet worked out how to use the Internet effectively, how to best mix form and content. And in the absence of a new sort of content, I fear the Internet will be claimed by the same old powers, especially commercial interests and governments.
The Internet is very good, indeed fantastic, for providing information. It is also reasonably good for fast, shallow analysis. It is not so good on deep analysis, and it is hopeless on theory.
It is theory that gives us a framework or paradigm in which to organise the information and analysis in order to make it useful. It is innovative, inspirational theory, in my view, that is now most lacking in our emerging global society.
So, I’m shifting my attention back to writing books, which is where theory is still mostly originated and developed. If it is at all coherent, new theory can then spread outwards to affect specialist researchers/commentators, and then move into the wider community. The spread of neo-liberal (economic rationalist) ideas over the last two decades – which have transformed our assumptions about modern life – is a good example of how this process works. It’s just that we have to come up with better theory than that.
Blogs are one of the more innovative things that have sprung up on the net. I ultimately found blogging a somewhat limited form of communication, but it is still early days. It is, of course, time consuming. Furthermore, the attempt to combine the familiarity of sustained commentary with the need to actually say something worth reading presents as many problems as it solves. I certainly found it tricky getting the tone or style right. The interactivity is similarly problematic. In terms of feedback, I was at times bemused by how someone with the capability to log onto the Internet could still hold views better left in the 19th century, and there are always vested interests who are quick to defend any perceived slight. But mostly I was impressed with how many well-informed, intellectually advanced people there are out there.
‘OnLine Opinion’ and its blog ‘Ambit Gambit’ are brave attempts to sustain a popular but substantial Internet site that promotes information exchange and debate, and I wish Graham, Hugh and the rest the best of luck with it. In particular, I thank them for the opportunity to try out blogging.
As for myself, I’ll concentrate on developing new ideas on how our increasingly global, high-technology society works and should work. I began this project in my early post-graduate work, continued it in my doctoral thesis (published as a book: “Global Control: Information Technology and Globalisation since 1845”) and have two new books in the planning stage to get on with. I may also set up my own website to promote my work.
So all the best to my readers. Thanks for your time and attention – those increasingly valuable commodities – and I hope you will continue and expand your efforts on the Internet and elsewhere to broaden debate and work for better informed decision-making generally. In these increasingly strange times, we can afford the alternative less and less.

Posted by Peter at 1:44 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

1 Comment

  1. Peter, sorry to see you go. We made a reasonably odd couple as the first two bloggers on this site, and that’s how On Line Opinion is conceived – as the contest of ideas. Without you there will be fewer ideas, at least in certain areas. You still have your keys to the “front door” as it were, so feel free to do an occasional Melba and post here again if something particularly needs to be said.
    One of your friends or admirers might also be interested in filling your place and perhaps translating some of your theory into more polemical pieces in the future. Give them my email address if they do.
    As you say, this blog is an experiment, and we are all really playing around with it. Maybe you and I need to work out how to write shorter, less complete, posts. I think sometimes that the art of blogging is a little like the breakfast table commentary on the newspaper that my mother used to do. Or maybe that’s just one art of blogging.
    Don’t forget to keep us all in the loop on your books. Even if you never post again here and none of your colleagues or friends fills your spot, I’d be happy to do a synposis of bigger ideas from time to time.
    All the best.

    Comment by Graham Young — April 28, 2004 @ 1:01 pm

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