Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Why "open source" is so important to people power and Trade Unionism

Many people assume that we live in a new golden age of communications. In some ways we do. But from a Union perspective, I'd say the golden age of communications was probably the 1950's.

With many thousands of people working together in massive factories, there was a captive audience for Unions. The media was far less fragmented than now.  The nation came together to watch the same things and share the same experiences. In the UK we are now very fragmented in terms of where we live compared to our extended families and work colleagues. Media fragmentation is just another example of a wider social fragmentation.

The new difficulty in bringing people together gives an advantage to the Right.  When I grew up in the 70's and 80's, unemployment was very political and hugely unpopular.  It's not now. This is lazily explained as "politics has moved to the right" - but not because values have changed or because the Right won support.  It's because local communities were tighter knit than the relative fragmentation of today. The devastation of unemployment was felt strongly by a better connected community via stronger Trade Unionism, social clubs and also the simple fact that Tory "de-industrialisation" in the 80's hit large pockets of workers who lived more closely together.  A factory closing today quietly devastates one household on a quiet close - multiplied by the number of workers getting laid off.

I've started taking an interest in "social media", as potentially they are a glue that can help bring us better together. This is why I've started experimenting with blogging, such as this site, Twitter and Pinterest.

Many people think we already have this via Facebook. Unfortunately, we know that the likes of Twitter and Facebook cannot be relied upon to allow people to express themselves when real power is challenged.

I'm discovering that "open source"  alternatives such as Diaspora are so important. As I understand it, these online tools cannot be bought or controlled by capital.  I can post to Twitter and/or Facebook from Diaspora.  More needs to be done to promote the open source alternatives to a Plc world that people cannot trust.

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