July 25, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

My digital craft

It’s the weekend! What could be sweeter than two days at home, after five in the office? I’ve never felt good about being enclosed in an office, with no reason to leave my desktop other than for tea and toilet. Even a benign, friendly, non-challenging culture with good kitchen facilities doesn’t set me at ease. Probably most people would prefer a work place more like Google’s, with massage on demand and outdoor couches. But then we aren’t all creaative workers, and the business of government (which includes the governance of business) has to get done by somebody.
But today is playtime, and like any predictable bus driver, my brief holiday is spent with the very technologies that drive me to distraction during the week. More writing, more computers, but also more fun.
No that I don’t enjoy the camraderie and even the gravitas of public sector work. Today’s public sector workplace is more like the private sector than previously, another dimension of convergence. There is much more relaxed interplay with the private sector and other agencies. This surely has to be a sign of maturity, a word I keep putting forward for public communications. And creative people are always close at hand. They just don’t shout about it. I know of one youngish person who is off shortly to LA to get a pilot produced. But there is still much conservatism: imagine rejecting my suggestion to redo the agency web site as a series of haiku? It could have concrete background music and no external links. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant change?
As I mouse around with Photoshop, I muse on the strong differences that still remain between the public and private sectors. These probably revolve around public accountability. When I play around with collage and colour, it matters to no one.
collage old.jpg
As a private citizen or a small business, I can make, sell, trade, invest or go broke. This applies as much to insurance as to art. The aggregate is what matters, not sole companies much less home based businesses or hobbists.
But in the public sector process matters, due diligence and those public sector values that are much more than the bookmarks they are printed onto. Last week I had to sit through a tenancy hearing, where a hard-drinking old codger was being taken to task for public housing lease violations. It was boring and ultimately trivial. What made it worth watching was the decency and respect everyone accorded to each other. Only the codger was a bit rude. But isn’t that the point of good government, that it demonstrates lese majeste to its subjects? I would much rather see time and money spread to manage such people comfortably than hear they had been found dead and homeless in an alleyway. Good government is expensive, bad government is unaffordable. My mantra still.
When the complexities of the policies, the technologies, and the organisational relationship become almost overwhelming, I remind myself that this is not New Jersey, where 40 have been arrested for corruption. (The Sopranos was the sanitised version.) Australia still has a running leap on the possibility of meeting the times to come.
But it will take more than good manners and creative public servants to get us there. In the private sector, big mistakes are quarrantined to those who made them and their investors. For governments and the public servants that advise them, the stakes can be much bigger. When does short term risk averse (ie, immediate revenues) become long term recklessness?
One big decision that could well affect most of us came to my attention through the ever marvellous publicly funded Four Corners. NSW has given BHP and Chinese company Shenhua coal exploration rights under the Liverpool Plains. This very fertile and nearly drought proof area sits above a huge aquifer that feeds the Murray Darling. Even solid Country Party voters are turning to the Greens to stop the even possible contamination of this doubly precious resource: food and water. It doesn’t get anymore basic than that. What will happen?
This weekend I will make time to send off some letters to Ministers on this matter. I hope I am just part on an aggregate on this, and that the collective will be wise. I will hold governments accountable. Meanwhile, I practice my digital craft. Can’t sew, can’t knit, but I can find the right size brush with the right level of opacity to clean up an old collage. Still learning. Time to get out, enjoy the beautiful weather, think about the modern public service and the quiet creative types who can make it sing.
guitar man drawing.jpg

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 10:56 am | Comments Off on My digital craft |
Filed under: Arts

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