Digital Britain Interim – ‘mergency

Posted by on Mar 11, 2009 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

So there I was having a lovely cuppa and chat with JamieC this avo in Camden's Spring sunshine and we both realised that tomorrow (March 12th) is the deadline for responses to the original report.

Banged my thoughts out here: Download A Different Kind of Digital

I'm sure that much of this has seeped in from conversations with folk over recent weeks – from Amp09 and the like – so thanks to everyone. If there's any particular idea or coinage you feel is rightly yours, please let me know and I will do my best to credit properly…

A bit all over the shop but would appreciate any comments you have in the next 12 hours.


  1. Willem van der Horst
    March 12, 2009

    Hi Mark!
    Nice write-up, particularly considering you only did it this afternoon! I unfortunately couldn’t make it to Amp09 and I’m not even British, but I checked through the report and watched the live stream at NESTA – so I’m not completely cold to the whole report.
    I generally agree with all your points, it all seems to be completely focused on technical infrastucture. It’s definitely important, but I couldn’t help thinking that is kind of missing a lot of the points of what digital represents, even though technology enables everything. I spent most of my life in France and they’re really ahead broadband/infrastructure wise – talking about it in a summit has a lot of great intentions but isn’t going to change the fact that Britain is already lagging behind a bunch of other countries…
    But more importantly as you laid out technology is only one part – and I think the other thing missing is that the context from the report seems to be about competition and a fear/concern that GB could be left behind, not competitive in an international background, etc. Essentially contrary to the spirit of collaboration and partnership that for me stems from digital.
    How can you be address the Human side of digital as you wrote it if your main concern is staying ahead of others and/or blocking them out..?
    It’s a bit late so I’m not really sure how much value I’m really adding, but hopefully it can be useful! Cheers.

  2. Steven Devijver
    March 12, 2009

    Hey Mark,
    I admire your young and naive assumptions on telling government how it should be done. Your honesty is so instigating that I’m completely going with it just for the heck of it.
    No, seriously, you’re dead on. You’ve hit the mark as far as I’m concerned. The fact that I get ‘it’ though kind of disqualifies me from being anywhere near government’s business. I couldn’t even be a institutionalized janitor because of ‘getting your drift’. That’s how much you’ve scored.
    I wrote down some remarks while reading through your draft. They all make a lot of sense once ‘you get it’ but they won’t make any difference for them public servants. What you’re trying to do is explain to the Pacific islands natives that their newly discovered Gods are really airplanes. Your message is not getting through because your vocal strings are making the air tremble in a different dimension; a dimension the G.O.V. is actively denying exists.
    So here goes nothing. By the way, I’ve been appreciating your work and lines of thinking for a long time; I thought this might be a excellent opportunity to let you know and I exist and ‘give back’. It could also be the dark, heavy belgian brew I just internalized that’s talking now. Still, I’m fairly confident I’m being serious here.
    The gov is experiencing cargo cult: build it and miraculous economic growth will be laid upon us once again by the big white-hand-glove-wearing hand in the sky. And from their perspective the way their thinking tubes are revving makes a lot of sense. It would make a lot of sense to those indigenous Pacific islanders: it doesn’t really matter how or why Goodness returns, as long as it does. Just follow your internally articulated protocols long enough and with enough ferocity and the Gods will one day soon be remembering you.
    I think what is missing from your draft is the motive of why the Brits might come together and act in concert. Many motives could be punted – heck, you could even quote Clay Shirky – but I think there’s one that says it all in a way that even those GOV bots couldn’t ignore: subversion of dominance. It’s a term that comes from anthropology and it describes the reason-d’etre of anthropology. As the study of humanity anthropology needs to be concerned not with the dominant kinds of interactions but with the subversive once.
    There lies the rub: friending hundreds of people on Facebook isn’t subversive at all. Subversive quality comes from motive, time, place, source and target. Subversive elements are in constant limbo as their actions all but recognize the power of those they’re trying to subvert, making those even more powerful. I think it’s this elusive quality that you’re trying to hit but I could be misreading you as well.
    The Inter-Tubes – heck, the friggin’ third wave – favor power to reside with individuals rather than with institutions. We’re nowhere near riding that wave for a long enough period of time to understand where that will take us. Sure, we have a lot of ideas but nothing concrete. Our best friend and at the same time worst enemy is emergence: the quality of shedding off the old formal rules while lacking new ones but still having a ferocious go. Emergence by definition defies scientific inquiry. You might as well say 2012 is the End Date.
    What you’re trying to do is Oh-So convincing to me but by definition can’t convince anybody who thinks what’s really missing is YouTube-HD. “The only thing wrong with Digital Britan is not enough HD.” We can scream and shoot and flag-signal all we want, THEY won’t get us. They won’t not because they’re incapable, not because they’re stupid, but because of their association with the GOV embeds them into a belief system that’s not conductive in a really big way for that kind of adoration.
    On the other hand, you might just get lucky. Maybe the stars will be aligned just right for you. So here are my remarks on your draft:
    – Instead of ‘ideas of scarcity’ I would say ‘man-made scarcity’, as opposed to ‘natural scarcity’.
    – When you explain the success of SMS by copying, I would call it imitation because I guess that’s what it really was as is.
    – I would use collaboration instead of co-operation. Making a Ford T-model requires co-operation. Flash mobs depend on collaboration.
    – You use the word disruptive, but I’m not feeling it. The word disruptive as you’re using it has a quality to it that makes predictions about the future which can simply not be measured or substantiated at the time of your proclamation. Those that ‘get’ the significance of what you’re saying ‘get it’ and the rest doesn’t. I guess that’s the simplest way in which I warn you on the ineffectiveness on your usage of the word disruptive.
    I wish you good luck, you’re making us all proud.

  3. neilperkin
    March 12, 2009

    Hi Mark – had time to quickly look at it on the train this morning and think the point about how it’s about the people is well made – and is exactly the point that feels like it needs to be made IMHO. Props to you for doing it.

  4. Mark Earls
    March 12, 2009

    Thanks for comments everyone. Going to press send in a little while so now’s the last chance!

  5. kelvin newman
    March 13, 2009

    You’ll have to keep us updated on this Mark, Prob too late to contribute now though, teach me to keep better up to date on my feeds!

  6. @AlastairDuncan
    March 13, 2009

    Good points here Mark. I’ve added a few on the
    page linking to this as well. I fear it is all a bit 19th century strategy for 20th century businesses.