Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 1 / Preamble
September 28, 2008
Related Post: Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.
The primary objective of this paper is to forward a cost effective, workable and practical strategy to enable e-engagement initiatives between governments and netizens.
(2) A Brief History of the Anatomy of the Cognitive Dissonance
This segment proposes to forward a chronological account to describe how did we get here? Along with questions as to what are the formative milestones encountered during the journey? Causal factors which were deemed operable to all the actors in and outside blogosphere will also be discussed.
In each segment of this report, “breaks” and “milestones” will be identified to account for the following phenomenon.
-What accounts for the “cognitive dissonance” between netizens and government?
-Why is there a prevalent culture of skepticism, cynicism and disbelief of anything government?
These specific breaks and milestones will be referred to as “V” for practical planning notation purposes.
2.1 Why is the past so important?
The working assumption is based on the operating logic: if one doesn’t even know the past, then it’s impossible to build up an accurate picture of the relationship that defines netizens and government to move forward sensibly.
Neither would it be possible to accurately scale the extent of these differing views to effectively craft a workable solutions to close the gap.
2.2 How did the “we against them” mentality develop?
It would appear the divide between bloggers and government is unique and particular to suggest it warrants a special case examination.
We don’t believe that assumption to be true.
This prompts us to consider whether the root causes accounting for the divide between the blogging community and government may even display traditional factor conditions i.e organizational pathology which is characteristically seen in traditional clashes between management and unions, class wars and normative competitive scenarios.
Three main stages have been identified, charted, differentiated to be socially and politically relevant in accouting for this divide.
2.2.a The Advent of the Internet
During the advent of the internet, government initially decided wisely or naively that though a novel invention – blogging amounts to nothing more than a disingenuous way of circulating information. The relative impact of these online discussion, in being able to shape the landscape of collective consciousness was adjudged to be relatively low or minimal.
The nexus between online social media and its potential to be profiled into a wonder weapon as seen recently in the Malaysian GE was still not widely perceived as a real and present danger during this period.
The relative importance government ascribed to this new phenomenon in shaping the collective consciousness was generally adjudged to be negligible.
Hence no attempts where made to either project or interdict to engage the online community.
We consider this to be a very serious omission and for the planning purposes, this has been identified as the first “break” referred to as V1.
2.2.b – Stage 1: The cult of sniperism
In Stage 1, the preferred strategy of government appears to be one of restating the adage at every turn and opportunity – content is king – a corollary of that implies while the MSM should be treated as an all weather reliable purveyor of the truth; conversely, the internet remains a feral and dangerous domain where lies and disinformation proliferate.
It should be treated as circumspect with a healthy dose of suspicion. It’s even conceivable during these initial stages, a la mission civilisatrice was launched to educate the public on the perils of the net. Though no official confirmation exist todate to establish this as a fact.
Even at this relative stage of infancy, many bloggers had begun to challenge the mantra by forwarding the idea “quantity (though amateurish) was a form of quality.” or “blogging was an equivalent of reportage.”
Since government strategy implicitly relies on the economic assumption people will always gravitate towards quality. It was not uncommon for the MSM to reinforce this belief through repetition and reinforcement drives to drive home the point, MSM is salvation; the internet is perdation.
This single track strategy deployed by the MSM is responsible for the first break in “reality” between bloggers and government (note MSM and government for the purposes of this report is treated as synonymous entities).
[special note to planners: in your planning at a strategic level. You will need to augment his misalignment in the MSM first! Pls do not proceed to recommend strategies to augment the internet UNLESS this is first and foremost in your TOR action priority list - treat this as an AN for V1]
One of the main flaws of this strategy lies in the paradox when the importance of something has to be regularly proclaimed. Disbelief is often the by product – to exacerbate the divide many of these attempts by MSM to restate the “truth” leveraged directly on direct and open criticism of blogging content.
It’s conceivable this may have precipitated a sort of arms race which spawned the cult of sniperism. The terms is apt, as a sniper’s job is to deliver discriminatory, highly accurate rifle fire against enemy targets that cannot be engaged successfully by the regular infantry men because of constraints of range, size, location, terrain etc.
During stage 1 melee’s between bloggers and MSM, a game developed where a distinctive pathology began to emerge to account for how blogger’s could successfully produce a win result against the juggernaut MSM – bloggers began to cultivate the oblique eye – where they would challenge the veracity of the MSM as the sole purveyor of the truth.
At this stage, the primary weapon of the blogger was counter reportage of the observable kind and nature.
This style often involved a mix of barbed repartees and comic relief reminiscent of the adage that was frequently used against Pravda,
“Pravda means truth, but there is no truth in Pravda.”
During this period, the MSM often provided an endless supply of canon fodder for bloggers to perfect their skill of arms.
Since the former would slavishly follow the official pronouncements of the party apparatchiks, they could also never contradict the clearly-stated pronouncements.
This refusal to acknowledge fallibility became the bull’s eye of the blogging community. By this time many of the incentives which is required to perpetuate a game began to be fleshed out in earnest; not only were bloggers who highlighted discrepancies in the MSM feted with readership, but they were even venerated very much like ace fighter pilots and their style, parlance and attitude widely emulated by netizens.
A defining watershed that further solidified this polarized pathology was further exacerbated during the Mr Brown vs MiCa saga.
From that point onwards the game has begun in earnest.
2.2.c Stage 2 – The Awakening
While stage 1 describes the conditions precedent which made possible the whole hypothesis of the arms race – stage 2 attempts to provide a discursive account of how the competitive game between bloggers and govt was perpetuated.
In stage 2 interactions. The blogging community seems to have successfully crafted a unitary identity complete with its own set of historiographies and reward based system, where it able to successfully hold its own narrative against the MSM’s version of reality.
There is also evidence to suggest in stage 2. The cult of sniperism has reached a point of obselence and new skills of arms were required to extend beyond merely distanced nit picking.
This new capability was made possible for two main reasons:
- Firstly, the protective enclosure offered by the MSM, which the govt has traditionally relied on as it’s first defensive line is was by this period so completely overrun by the cult of sniperism; it neither had the means to effectively mythologize and perpetuate the culture of veneration to reliably sustain the image of the political hegemony any longer.
In the eyes of blogging community at least the MSM no longer had an semblance of credibility.
- Secondly, an unitary culture was beginning to take shape in blogosphere. The exact nature of this culture or where it came from remains imprecise even at the time of writing, but we believe in all likelihood, it would have resembled very much the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment: which once questioned the official line – that independence is to be wished for them so long as it is the kind of independence we (govt) approve of. Only in Singapore, net parlance suggest, it is closer to: I dowan lah, go and die lah!
What appears to have precipitated the arms race to renewed heights of sophistication at this stage appears to [following the Mr Brown vs MiCa saga] be the apperance of aggregating sites.
Aggregators are virtual hubs responsible for harvesting salient reads commonly produced in blogosphere – apart from serving as meet points to allow bloggers to chat and exchange critical information.
They are also social platforms which allow for the tacit shaping of a shared identity and common values.
The pathology which aggregation sites solicits from its users is very similar to primitive irrigation societies; here since traffic or water is a shared resource; there is a high level of cooperatism; a series of gates needs to be manage to ensure everyone gets the optimal quantity of water.
In the same way, aggregators accomplish this balancing task by channeling readers to different nodes in blogosphere – they modulate not only patterns of behavior between bloggers, but more importantly funnel people into common public squares.
Thereby inadvertently setting the rhetorical cadence since what they may aggregate will essentially be marketed as the culture of blogosphere.
This is evidenced when one examines net reading patterns during stage 2 period where it is not unusual for each aggregating sites to have their respective loyal readership.
It is also worth noting during this period net speech or parlance begun to proliferate. Prior to the Mr Brown vs MiCa saga, net speech such as the “States Times” – “Shit Times” – “147th” did not exist see (E-bot Diagram 1 – vid run @ 34).
The manner in which they proliferated and taken root in the manner they did is suggestive that aggregating sites may have played a crucial role in the supply chain of information.
This operational feature of aggregators should always be borne in mind by planners. YOU NEED TO FACTOR THEM INTO YOUR ASSUMPTIONS!
This prompts us to consider at stage 2, whether bloggers have begun to not only to network extensively by exchanging critical information so as to extend their skill of arms – but have they even begun to synthesize new information?
One notable example of this is the sharing of information such as how to blog without getting in trouble with the law? Or how to post undetected by using proxy servers?
But the creation of new words is suggestive, bloggers may have also by this stage begun to fashion their own “truths” to account for their diseparate version of “reality.”
While we have found no inconvertible evidence suggesting a centrally organized force accounts for this phenomenon – in Stage 2 we did register bloggers may have also migrated to a higher plane shedding their prototypal skill of arms – the cult of sniperism.
Again this escalation of skill of arms is consistent with Richardson models of how an arms race should pan out under a given set of circumstances.
In Stage 2 not only have the actors begun to draw their battle lines, their identities are unitary and homogeneous unlike stage 1. Their positions diametrically opposed to the establishment view.
And there is ample reference to suggest conclusively by this intermediate stage in the game; bloggers have even begun to fashion their own parallel universe by “breaking away” from the narrative advanced by the government.
Bloggers may have also begun the first protocol task of ritualizing and stylizing their class politics to perpetuate the rewards and penalty system of anti establishment blogging – this accounts for the pathos of the period, that is usually described as a parallel universe.
Skepticism and cynicism by this stage had become not only synonomous with blogging culture but also a badge of honor.
A derivative of the parallel universe syndrome is the pathology that we have today come to regard as the widespread skepticism and cynicism which we usually associate with the blogging community – internet parlance during Stage 2 supports the contention what we consider as entrenched cynicism may have calcified during this tumultuous period.
To facilitate the planning function, 2 observations have been noted to be operable during this period designated as V3.
• bloggers have begun to synthesize their own version of the truth in earnest. [note: this is a significant escalation from the basic skill of arms associated with the cult of sniperism – where the game is only played at an entry level of counter reportage i.e “you wrote this, but look I snapped this with my camera phone. What do you have to say huh? ”
• The rules of the game are structured along the lines of anticipatory versus complex systems – where not only does the skill of arms assume an increasingly ritualized and stylized form. But by this stage it is also characterized by a higher level of intellectual content – as premising, analyzing, attribution and referencing becomes almost a de riguer entry requirement – at this level the syntax that describes this level of the gaming experience can be described in the following terms, “you said you are going to do this. Cite you authority and precedent to do so? According to basic principles of human rights, you cannot do it!”
This observation point has been designated super V3.
[Special note for planners: Super V3 has been classified as not only the main fissure point accounting the cognitive dissonance between bloggers and govt. As we shall see in Stage 3, this will be your platform for your assumptive work.]
2.2.c – Current Snapshot of Blogosphere
Stage 3: How does Stage 3 differ from 1 & 2?
In this phase of the game, bloggers are not only content to dogfight with the MSM.
They appear to be even questioning openly and directly the broader aspects of govt policies and initiatives with increasing levels of sophistication.
What differentiates Stage 3 competitive scenarios from Stage 1 & 2 is the high level of interdiction skills demonstrated by some bloggers to not only pre-empt government initiatives, but also to color them with a high level of interpretative gloss as to what policies should rightly be pursue and why?
How are they doing it differently from 1 & 2?
Unlike Stage 1 & 2, Stage 3 is marked by a high level of specialization with major blogs fragmenting to different quadrants in blogosphere.
In some cases, there is a strong symbiotic nexus, where net traffic is two way, but more often, they are much very different neighborhoods enjoying their respective unique demographics and style of readers – we don’t really know what accounts for this balkanization of the competitive platform – there are a few theories.
- Bloggers may be tweaking their material to serve different interest groups along the readership spectrum.
- Readership goes through a natural selection process based on demographics, age and education levels.
- Infighting in the blogging community. Leading to foced and decision based segregation.
Whatever the reasons what is clear is Stage 1dog fighting which used to rely implicitly on taking either potshots or exposing incongruence in what was published by the press is no longer an attractive proposition to pursue.
A few possible reasons account for this:
- The MSM has begun engaging the blogging community.
- The MSM has changed their strategy from the previous strategy of non to constructive engagement.
What are the threats and opportunities in Stage 3?
We are not suggesting Stage 1 type blogs are dead – reading is after all a self selecting exercise. Only most bloggers have migrated upwards in the competitive quadrant.
Neither are we suggesting the level of cynicism and skepticism which typified Stage 1 & 2 blogging psyche has diminished significantly – only it should be recognized the pathology of mistrust that has always characterized the relationship between the govt and netizens is beginning to show signs of stabilizing with bloggers who blog openly at least. An unknown quantity is how does this measure up with the broad based statistical significant anonymous majority?
It has to be disturbing when one considers anonymous posters account for nearly 94.3% of blog related traffic and chatter.
How is the game played at stage 3 – what are the incentives and penalties?
It is conceivable, in Stage 3, there will be more incentives for bloggers assume an even higher level of philosophical coherence in how they may choose to write to come across as more appealing to their readership.
As the game from this point can be expressed in the following terms: “yes, we know you want to do it that way. But have you considered this way?”
However, despite the general positive take of Stage 3 blogging – it should be emphasized under the strongest possible terms – this type of blogging is anticipated to exert more stress on govt’s processes in the long run despite, it’s veneer of civility forwarded through reason discourse – as stage 3 represents the conclusive state of the arms race.
If Stage 1 is the age of the sling, stage 2 is the age of the blunderbuster, stage 3 is the age of the guided precision warhead – it should not come as a surprise to planners therefore to regard this stage with renewed vigor. It should always be remembered e-engagement is a double edged sword.
As at this level of the game, not only are bloggers beginning to leverage on philosophical parallels elsewhere to not only draw comparatives to further question the Singapore official rhetoric of how getting things are done.
But also at Stage 3 bloggers have begun to develop suggested solutions and counter proposals.
This supports our believe, for Stage 3, “good” attributes to remain sustainable; there must be a renewed effort by the govt to e-engage in an effective and productive manner. Get it wrong and you will be in hot soup.
There is a clear and present danger if govt fails to e-engage effectively; then a reversal may possibly even occur where blogging may return to Stage 2 hybrid Stage 1 type blogging.
Concerns & Misc Issues
A challenge posed to govt at Stage 3 blogging is this obviously extends the footprint of bloggers to even cover the domain of govt; previously in Stage 1 & 2, the scope of bloggers was very much limited to the role of commenting on tactical and contempraneous (past tense) issues.
Another pressing issue is how does govt recruit the participation of anonymous bloggers? Failure to do again, may lead to a regressive state or worst still a forced isolationist state?
In Stage 3, the blogging reach is anticipated to increase significantly where the general scope of questions covers not only tactical, but also strategic issues.
What’s notable in Stage 3 is how this is accomplished – by juxtaposing comparative Western models with our own – here the blogging focus will look something like this: why can’t we do it like the French or Americans?
Not only is stage 3 characterized by a high degree of comparative analysis, but there is also indicative signs many of these proposals will embody Western thoughtware.
In this competitive scenario the following questions is set to make up the complexion of blogosphere:
- Why can’t we be more transparent?
- What are the checks and balances?
- Where is the accountability?
- What forms our first principle rights?
- What constitutes our accrued rights?
We do not know what accounts for this sudden shift and congruence towards Western models.
It could well be, bloggers by stage 3 have reached a point of diminishing returns in their capacity to determine equivalence or approximation by simply relying on Stage 2 tools.
To instill their argument further with a higher degree of persuasive content to their readership, they appear to be retro-fitting western concepts into their material.
What we do know is, this is suggestive the arms race may have finally reached a terminal point of maturity and it’s unlikely to develop further beyond this stage.
In Stage 3 encounters, not only will the government’s golden line of incorruptibility, dependability and quality increasing come under closer scrutiny. But against the backdrop of a chorus demanding for greater transparency, accountability and rationality.
A few good example of Stage 3 type encounter is the GST debate where welfarism was injected into the debate ; along with references questioning the wisdom of the free market vs interventionist / S377A and Minister’s pay.
In every case, these debates are increasingly juxtaposed against a world stage with comparatives, extrapolations and superimposition with how other countries may be pursuing these goals.
Here readers should note the crossings over between cultures and different states of minds are distinctive and peculiar to Stage 3 blogging experiences, unlike Stage 1 & 2 where they are notably absent.
Against the backdrop of this renewed Archimedean perspective of making sense of the world, not only will the government narrative be stressed. There is a real and present danger if no effort is made to redress these deficits by deploying effective e-engagement strategies. The position of the govt may even slip further.
Against this new competitive backdrop, the magic wand of pragmatism, as a theory and science is certainly insufficient to withstand the test of critical examination for long.
It is against this fractious social political climate in blogosphere that these proposals have to be crafted under.
Read Part 2:
Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.
[This report has been compiled by the ASDF, the Think Tank of the brotherhood with assistance from our Channel Partners 2008]
In the Part 2, the ASDF will recommend hard and soft strategies to either augment or rehabilitate net attributions to the desired effect described
[Dear Valued Readers,
I have successfully persuaded the Brotherhood, namely the ASDF (the Think Tank) to release their first part of their proposal to AIMS. This I might add was not an easy feat. Please stay tuned for the second segment. Do note text and font may differ due the need to reconcile different platforms used by the respective teams - I dont know how to harmonize these differences, so do bear with me - Y2K - The FILB - The Brotherhood Press 2008]
September 14, 2008
This interview series is conducted between the FILB and a senior planner in the brotherhood who is responsible for assessing the impact on AIMS on our blogosphere.
[This has been brought to you by the FILB - The Brotherhood Press 2008]
Q: Cerebus, may I begin by thanking you for taking the time for this interview; as the chief planner of the strategic outlook committee, may I just say, it’s a privilege for the FILB to conduct this interview. Let me dive into the issues directly, how do you see the AIMS initiative?
A: You are most welcome Y2K. I think we can see it from various perspectives, but the main issue is how most netizens see it; here I think, when the government says they want to simply connect with people its conceivable it’s a bit like Darth Vader saying he is the mood for love and so the take can’t be so different from this
What the government may need to seriously consider in its e-engagement drive is this may not just be a simple matter of popping a few tic-tacs to freshen one’s breathe when they say they want to connect with netizens.
Q: Cerebus, I recently asked Vollariane what he thought about the AIMS initiative; he mentioned to me, they were strong on the doing part, but short on the why should we be doing it, part.
I think he generally feels there should be more underpinnings accounting for the whole thrust to revamp our net – can you please share with us what you think about Vollarianes assessment? Do you agree with him? Or do you think he is just quibbling over the small stuff?
A: No, I don’t believe he is quibbling over small change. If anything I believe he has captured most of our findings very well.
Let’s get a few things straight. The AIMS proposals is basically in 4 segments:
(a) Recommending that the government develops a strategy for “e-engagement”
(b) Deregulating online political content
(c ) Protection of minors
(d) Intermediary immunity for online defamation
What Vollariane is saying is (a) is everything. The rest you can more or less throw out of the window. This may sound like a very radical idea, but what he’s essentially invoking is the Pareto principle. Which is also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity goes something like this, for many events, 80% of the effects come from only 20% of the causes.
Business management gurus, economist and even high class call girls have long known about this simple operating principle. It’s a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales comes from only 20% of your customer base.” By the same logic, if you want to improve lets say the output of a factory, all you need to do is nail down the 20% to get the 80% changes.
What Vollariane is trying to say is if they get this part wrong; then you can be assured, although it forms only 20%, it will come back and bite them and probably cause 80% of the grief; conversely, if they get the quality control right on this point; it will resolve 80% of their problems i.e they will not only be able to free up our net, but they may even be able to make a great recommendation like the Marshall plan.
It all depends on the 20%. And the 20% is the philosophy part.
Q: This sounds like something very complex. Can you please explain further for the benefit of our readers who may not have any war gaming experience on how the ASDF comes up with their assessment that AIMS should be doing this but not that? I don’t want to come across as rude, but I think some of our readers may actually be thinking – these people are quite presumptuous and arrogant to even believe, they can talk down to AIMS.
A: We are not talking down to AIMS. I think none of us here disputes AIMS is definitely doing something, but whether what they are doing can produce the claimed super duper good is another story – its really a bit like going for an evening stroll in the park and seeing a man searching for something he may have lost under a street lamp and when you ask him why isn’t he extending his search beyond the wan of the street lamp – he replies, because it makes no sense to search in darkness.
At one level there is some measure of truth, but what if what he lost lurks in darkness?
Q: I am sorry, Cerebus, I am not following you, can you maybe relate your story to an actual AIMS initiative to explain further what you mean?
A: If you like. Take the AIMS proposal of training civil servants how to engage with the online community – makes perfect sense as an idea. But once you subject it to the rigors of critical analysis; by turning over many other questions like what is the current cultural attributes which makes up whole the departmental mentality? Can it even effectively support the whole idea of e-engagement? What’s the strengths and weakness etc?
As we go deeper into these issues, its conceivable we may even discover a fault line; where perhaps we can even argue unless the government first buys into the idea the best way to produce something good might be through allowing people a higher degree of autonomy and freedom to experiment. Instead of embodying the corseted belief that the system is always more important for the sake of the collective good, then this whole idea of training civil servants to e-engage might as well be a lofty exercise like ploughing the sea.
I think we really need to go deeper into the whole idea of e-engagement; this is not just about talking and connecting with people on the basis of “please don’t rock the boat mentality.” I see it very much as a game of strategy, managing opportunities and threats along with the whole idea conflict and risk management etc – unless it’s treated on that professional basis – you will be in trouble.
Q: Did all this issues surface during the simulation – can give a peek into the process?
A: There is no mystery really and to be very honest with you it’s quite a tedious affair. For lack of a better word, war gaming is really just a fantastic way of getting a handle on a very complex problem – its really a dummies way of solving really complex problems – a bit like resolving a math equation, where one begins by theorizing and then subjecting these assumptions to test, to see whether they are resilient enough to withstand critical scrutiny – one reason why we like to frame the problem of e-engagement in the context of a war games is it’s a very reliable way for us to scale very accurately many issues which would otherwise be impossible to do, if we just got a few people to sit around a table and discussing the matter while shooting pichers of beer – for example when we look at e-engagement most of us would tend to only think this is just an attempt by the government to reach out, connect and generally talk cock.
But in a war game scenario – when the term e-engagement is thrown out by lets say the blue team – the opposing red team, may very well begin to formulate a whole range of possible scenarios; its conceivable their planners may even decide to conduct a strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats analysis to scale an entirely different definition of e-engagement from what was originally agreed on even – if they are really good, they may even begin to develop interdiction strategies to scale these threats and opportunities.
But one thing is very clear; by this time in the game, when we look at the term e-engagement, its very far removed from the whole idea of just connecting with people; by this time, it’s a bit like holding at a prism to the light, where all sorts of uncomfortable questions form up against the foreground, where one may even ask questions like – is e-engagement an imperialistic move by a certain political party to establish a beach head in blogosphere? Others may even so as far as to ask whether perhaps this may be as the French colonist like to claim; a la mission civilisatrice?
Now sure, you can say this people are all crazy and probably smoking weed, but I my point is during our simulations we did register these divergent tendencies as being particularly suggestive when the idea of e-engagement was mooted it really means different things to different people.
So this observation really goes back to what Vollariane mentioned when he said AIMS is hot on the doing, but short on the why’s – what I think you need to appreciate here is – real or imagined this whole idea e-engagement needs to be fleshed out further as in the absence of a governing philosophy there is a real risk e-engagement as mooted by AIMS can and will spin out of control till finally it finds itself fraught with all sorts of questions, doubts, polemics and groundless assumptions as nearly to resist use altogether.
Q: Can you be more specific when you say AIMS needs to “appreciate” this risk of e-engagement if the idea is not to “spin out of control.”
A: I think it is very easy for us to assume the task of clarification simply involves defining and attempts at delimitations of the term e-engagement, but I don’t believe that is what Vollariane is trying to say. That may certainly be one part of it, but based on my reading what Vollariane seems to be advocating is an Archimedean perspective for all us (netizens and governments) to understand precisely what does this whole idea of change entail and more importantly how it should manage it.
Q: Don’t you think enough explanations have been made to explain the motivation why the government needs to engage netizens?
A: I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get this point across Y2K. Let me try. Till now I think most of the explanations have to be incomplete as till now most of it seems to be largely political and economic practical necessities of having to engage; that’s really like saying; you want to get married, but if you weigh 200 kg have a personality like cod liver oil; you really need to consider hitting the gym and subscribing to National Geographic and doesn’t harm your chances either; if you get an image consultant to give you an extreme makeover.
Q: So you are saying the government needs an extreme make over to come across as more approachable, if it is to first succeed in the whole enterprise of e-engagement.\
A: Look I am not saying Cheong Yip Seng needs to go down to the RSPCA and find a furry cat and wear it on his head to come across as a more affable person – I think, we really need to go back to what Vollariane is saying when he made a very strong recommendation for philosophical change. AIMS came out with a report entitled Engaging New Media: Challenging Old Assumptions.
What I think forms the crux of Vollarianes recommendations is, many of these old assumptions reside within the oligarchies which all cumulatively add up to make up what we call the persona of the government – we are not only talking here about laws, policies and methodology but also very subtle cultural attributes or what I would term a structure of thinking – and all these need to be strategically aligned make sure there is even a basis for effective communication.
I think that is really the direct opposite of an extreme makeover which is closer to cosmetic or what we will usually associate with superficial change.
No one I think really takes civil servants and politicians rapping and break dancing very seriously – sure, we give them Brownie points for effort, but I think what I may need to press home here is this is not a play play point, that’s to say when Vollariane uses the term philosophy and fuses it to the whole idea of change – it’s strategic in nature and its very specific and define and knowing probably drop dead serious.
Q: Cerebus can you give us a specific and defined understanding of the philosophy of change?
There are really too many to mention. But just to give you a general idea of what we may be talking it could very well be the whole idea of soft power – soft power is a term used in conflict management to describe the ability of a hegemony, such as a state or institution, to indirectly influence the behavior or interests of other interested bodies through cultural or ideological means.
This isn’t a term you find bandied around in the Oprah Winfrey show, its serious stuff and if you really want to read up on it; there are plenty of decent material in the net that will do a better job of explaining what it really means. (track back cut off, response lost) that not only comes with plenty of academic underpinnings but it also has a lineage that can provide many underpinnings for managing this whole idea of change effectively rather than haphazardly.
I think a better question to ask Y2K is can there really be e-engagement without first considering what needs to be changed government before it is able to solicit change in others?
Q: Cerebus some people can say AIMS is already adopting many of the soft power strategies you have mentioned – I went down to their website and took a look and to be honest with you, it looks quite approachable. So don’t you think what you are recommending is over the top?
A: I don’t think it’s even over the first storey and it’s definitely not over the top, not when one considers the deficits or ground that needs to be overreached when we take about e-engagement.
Before you even consider whether e-engagement is a good idea it may be a good idea to just ask; where does government stand in the competitive matrix? That’s to say, we are gauging it’s capacity to effect change, very much in the way, we may subject an athlete to a battery of test to see how fit he is; firstly, just ask yourself, how does the government come across to most netizens?
That may seem like a loaded question, but I think when you paraphrase e-engagement in the context of soft power what you may even need to do is understand from the onset; the question isn’t asking you whether the PAP is a good and clean government; or is it a government that can be reliably trusted to deliver the good life; so in the vocabulary and structural thinking of soft power, you are never ever really dealing with what hard power planners term practical necessities of a quantifiable nature as much as you are managing how events and conditions shape public perception – what I think needs to be stressed here is, this isn’t a conventional war like when we decide to invade planet X or Y in our game. Where we will input relative strengths against mission objectives to derive at a projection and off we parachuting stormtroopers – when we speak about soft power we may even be going into very fuzzy terrain which may lean more to the qualitative; that has to be a challenge to manage for governments, as it imposes a paradigm shift on how to define success and tabulate a “win” point; as what we are really dealing with when we talk about soft power is a battle that is waged in the hearts and minds.
So against this hall of mirrors backdrop we need to ask ourselves what sort of strategies have the government traditionally used on netizens; how do they generally come across to netizens? Do they seem implacable, inflexible and self righteous at times?
Now bear in mind this is an elephant question. As who is really the “government” isn’t really very well defined in Singapore. That question is cut and dried in the UK and in the US depending on which state you’re asking the question, it too may not be so clear either, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s still possible to make out the broad line that separates the executive from the legislative, but in Singapore, I think, when talk generally in lay man’s terms about government; you may even need to appreciate all 3 estates (executive, legislature and judiciary) are usually seen one of the same political and operational reality – now why is this observation so important to the whole idea of e-engagement?
Because if one day; Walter Woon lets say decides tomorrow to sue a newspaper to foreclose on his version of the truth against theirs; tell me, will this color the general perception of the government? Or will most people consider this an independent act by the judiciary?
Understand this! Again we are not talking about hard and cold facts here; I am not asking you what happened at lets say 9.00 am in chambers when the decision was made; sure you can tell me as far as constitutional law goes; there is no nexus, but I think in the language of soft power, things are never ever that simple. As a large part of the answer is really in the eyes of the beholder.
Do you see the subtle effects of culture, values and ideas been played out here beyond just modulating behavior from more direct coercive measures called hard power such as military action and legal proceedings.
What I think you need to understand here is when we talk generally about managing perception in the context of soft power; it’s even possible for water to run uphill and rubbish all our standard assumptions; here I think, what governments need to understand is while they may be very adept at winning every argument and even getting their point admirably across in the real world – what they need to be mindful of is in e-engagement – that sort of world view is a lousy producer of good results.
Soft power is really a different ball game and even we have less than 2 earth years which is roughly 300 space years to manage it, but what I share with you is it hinges heavily on a host invisibles factors besides hard nosed pragmatic results like getting a court judgment – like I said hard power, is a no brainer, its really assigning resources to overrun your opponent – here I believe reputation, perception along with other factors such as standing in the community and good will may not so easily manipulated by either governments or bureaucrats – it was not easy for us and we are only gamers – however, this is not a game where if you get it wrong, you can just press the reset button and play again – that I feel is why Vollariane is advocating a governing philosophy.
Q: You mentioned just then that its possible for water to run uphill – what do you mean by this?
A: I think this is really the crux of the whole matter – no one doubts, there is a need to engage, but the question isn’t really how as much as what needs to be done first to effectively facilitate the whole process of engagement – here we may need to recognize, soft power may even impose a new understanding on how governments have traditionally defined success – by this I mean, in this game board, it’s even possible for the government to win all the battles yet manage to do the impossible and lose the war – that in the nut shell is the defining difference between soft and hard power.
Q: Can you share with us what is your main concern as the chief planner here?
Q: Y2K : Can you briefly recount the role and mission of the ASDF and how it fits into the oligarchy of the brotherhood? I believe this is a question that many of our readers are interested in.
A: Vollariane: Certainly. First, let me just say the ASDF is not an acronym. It is actually the first
four letters one learns in typing – if anything it is a play of words on the whole idea of how the left hand complements the right hand of the brotherhood. The ASDF was first set up sometime in the middle of the age of reason, 350 years ago – at its inception, the mission of the ASDF was to profile instructional and directional advisory for many our space diplomats to deal with the complexities of having to administrate over many of our virtual dominions and territories.
Q: Can you share with us how you develop instructional and directional advisories? And how was this used to analyze the recent AIMS initiative?
Certainly, through the years we have developed a variety of predictive tools. Many of them were developed based on our extensive experience in gaming. I think if you really want to understand how we ‘break it down’, then it is not so different from how one goes about playing the game Sim City – every good game starts with a few plausible scenarios – its then allowed to run its logical course and at various milestones the metrics are tracked, assessed and analyzed by our team to see how well they compare to real life models.
This way we can get a very good feel of how theory can past into the realm of reality.
Q: Many have lauded the efforts of AIMS in recommending a series of wide sweeping changes designed to free the net. Even the blogger 13 have described their thrust as “progressive.” Can you share with us what is your opinion?
A: I have no comment about the blogger 13.
As far as what AIMS is trying to accomplish. I think we need to see it all from the perspective of change management – by this I mean, we need to look further into its mission, strategy and philosophy.
Here, we may need to ask ourselves very basic questions like what’s the evidential basis that under grids the whole impetus for ‘change?’ Along with asking ourselves questions like; why change now? Why wasn’t change seen to be relevant before? Who benefits the most from these proposed changes?
What amounts to ‘good’ ‘fair’ or ‘bad’ change really depends on how robust these underpinnings are to critical analysis.
I think there is always a danger of taking the path of least resistance by assuming an abolition of a draconian law necessarily translates into a plus.
Q: Can you give us an actual case study that illustrates what you just said? I find it quite a big contradiction when you say abolition of bad doesn’t equate to good.
A: Certainly – this goes back to what I just said about managing change. The key word here is ‘managing’ so it implies while the end is very important i.e to seed democracy. It’s not as important as the means – here we need to ask question like; who is the government? Or who is usually seen as the government? Who takes ownership of this process? How well integrated is the logic for change within all these processes?
Good does not in some cases equal good – not even if you have the best goals, but lack the means – That didn’t happen when the Russians once bought wholesale into Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost and perestroika.
In fact it percipatated the balkanization of the USSR. And if you look at the present day problems in Georgia and the tussled that is currently unfolding in the Caucasus its really an accretion of what I call great goals but no means to get there.
We also the see the same contradiction unfolding in modern day Iraq, decamp on dictatorship and this doesn’t necessarily lead automatically to happy democracy – instead the ‘good’ there just happens to be something closer to a doomsday Iranian self styled theocracy – the sum of all our fears. So again we have a classic case of great goals but no means to get there.
So when AIMS goes about dismantling these icons and symbolisms of authoritianism and state inspired heavy handedness – we really need to stand back and ask ourselves questions like what accounts for these changes? How is changed defined here? And if possible even go backstage and look at the underpinnings that accounts for their overall strategy, plan and philosophy.
Q: In the executive version of the AIMS report. You mentioned the following,
“How is it possible to reconcile the imperative for real and meaningful social and political change whilst balancing the strategic priorities of nation building and social stability?”
What are you trying to say here? Are you saying AIMS doesn’t stand a chance of succeeding? Can you please clarify your point further as I believe the report was just an executive summary and it could have given many readers the wrong impression as to what you were trying to convey.
A: OK. It seems I may have rushed a few steps forward. Let me backtrack for the benefit of our readers.
Is it true to say just because diametrically opposite ideas exist in a framework; this means real and meaningful change is impossible?
If you read carefully that is definitely not what we are trying to convey. On the contrary when we highlighted how the national building objective was incompatible with the whole idea of freeing up the net.
We were merely underscoring the importance of managing change by resorting to a guiding philosophy.
Q: Vollariane can you give us a case study of what you mean by “resorting to a guiding philosophy?” I feel this is very complicated area and it would serve the benefit of our readers immeasurably if you clarified your point by way of an actual example.
A: Certainlyt Y2K – Now if you want a case study look at what’s been unfolding in China in the last twenty years, what we see there is how socialism as a philosophy of social justice and as a program for national development has been seamlessly integrated with the free market based economy.
The Chinese planners have done an excellent job there. We know. We have studied this extensively from both a macro and micro level and even reverse engineered many of their thoughtware into our gaming construct.
The learning outcome is how were they able to harmonize the hubris between shifting gears from state-run economics to free market?
Now you can more or less superimpose this on what AIMS is trying to accomplish when it tries to balance the strategic imperatives of nation building, social stability and intra faith harmony with the whole idea of creating a freer net – I don’t necessarily see these goals as incompatible.
However I need to qualify myself here. How did China reconcile the hubris?
How did they successfully transition from party dictatorship to electoral democracy? How did they rationalize, capitalism over socialism? In a nub how did they make the paradigm shift to modernity without spinning out of control like the USSR?
First, we need to debunk a few myths here; this feat was not accomplished at an incremental pace. If you say they did it gingerly test water style, then I can show you reams of metrics to prove you wrong till you are blue in the face.
Neither did they accomplish this in the way one feels for stones when crossing a river; that’s a bit like saying a hurricane can whip through a junkyard and magically assemble a space shuttle. So there has to be something more to this story.
The short answer is they had an all encompassing philosophy to manage this miraculous process of change.
Now this is what I mean when I use the term underpinning? Or when I say we need to go back stage and take a look at the machine that regulates the process of change.
My point is without a complimentary philosophy to legitimize and even justify the impetus for change then you might as well forget the whole idea of how to make sense of Deng Xiaoping’s experiment with market- based reforms or how does one effectively circumvent Marxist-Leninist dogma to make all these social political experiments possible.
It would seem this philosophy is the stuff of new age management, but my point is its jugular to the whole idea of managing change successfully.
In the Chinese experience, not only was the philosophy for change widely disseminated, it even permeated right into the core of the party hegemony running through the committee, brigade and cadre level to even reach the humble level of the province administrator at the edge of the known world.
So if you speak to any middle management bureacrat in lets say Ministry X, Y or Z – do not be surprise if he can even recount with admirable ease why there is no contradiction between democracy and communism – and not only can he square the accounts off economically, legally, socially and even philosophically – he can even give you some ideas of how he has been working to add value to the whole national vision – my point is even at this cookie cutter intra executive level; these agents of change not only have a firm grasp of the philosophy of change; which allows them to not only set A to B goals, but they even have the capacity to synthesis new knowledge which allows them to fashion interdiction strategies to go around road blocks to best articulate the vision. We see this most clearly in the autonomous regions in China, but that is another story – in this way not only do all their super sized tankers sail in one direction, even their sampans have very good compasses and all their skippers have the latest nautical maps – that I believe is what AIMS should be focussing on – not the doing part, but the reason why it should be done; not the how, but the why; not the instructional, but the directional – not the tactical, but the strategic.
If they get the formulation and priorty right – the rest will fall into place very beautifully but to do this, they need to be able to flesh out the same philosophical underpinnings, instead of approaching change in a piecemeal fashion.
This will all take time.
Q: So what you are saying is really like what Werhner Von Braun once said about the space race; “it’s all maths, get that right and the rest is just engineering?”
A: Yes and no Y2K – I think the philosophy needs to be seen as a unifying force. Let me share with you why. Just ask yourself a simple question; who is the government?
This may seem like a frivolous question, but it acquires added complexity in Singapore. As who is the government isn’t really very well defined; for example is MiCa the government? What about the ST? What about the housewife who is heading the ping pong committee? Is she the name and face of the government?
From this lightning analysis, we can already see there is a real need for convergence. This is why we believe the governing philosophy that drives change is so important. I dont believe our simulations can be so wrong.
In this case the philosophy will function very much as a hub even that allows all the different spokes which make up the legislature, executive and judiciary to line up – for that to happen, we certainly need to take a leaf from Von Braun, but bear in mind, there was also a risk here. I believe there is a song that once parodied the achievement of the father of rocketry, it began somewhat sardonically with the words,
“I aim for the moon, but some times my rockets end up in London.”
You need to ask yourself why?
Q: So Vollariane, let me get it straight – you are saying AIMS needs the same philosophical driven change?
A: Look I am for one very sympathetic to Mr Cheong and his associates. I don’t take the same belligerent attitude as Darkness. I fully appreciate the constraints and even the impossibility of the mission.
I know what they have been tasked to do is really unrealistic. I am surprised they have managed to get this far.
Only I believe, for there to be real change. They may first need to first buy into the whole idea of an integrated strategy and this requires the buy in of all; AIMS cannot do this alone and it’s not realistic for them to bear the entire burden of change while the government sits down like some Emperor expecting to hear good news.
This in my opinion is just silly.
This is where I think we can extrapolate many of the Chinese experience to add value to the approach.
There needs to be a consensus on what is the governing philosophy that guides these so called changes; it is not enough to just change for the sake of change by symbolically pursuing a strategy of window dressing; that in my view will do more harm than good in the long term.
For one it will play into the hands of those who will view it as only dressing up or worst still procedural change.
I think what is sorely needed here is a holistic strategy for perpetuating this whole idea of change outside AIMS.
One thing good about philosophical led based change is it allows infinite opportunities for those besides the original proponents of change to take an active role in the whole process.
As the Chinese experience has taught us, many ordinary people can take it and run with it – this I feel is very important.
Here I am talking about those who make up the periphery of what we consider government; msm, public sector etc.
At the end of the day whether change will succeed or fail will depend very much on the small narrative or what I call the small timers who drive the whole process of change; here we are not talking about ministers as much as school teachers, journalist, civil servants, librarians, grass root leaders etc.
It’s really a process of devolving power or empowerment and this is why we believe very strongly change as an idea needs to be premised on ideology.
For this to really happen AIMS need to desperately craft an ideology, ethos or governing formulation.
I for one cannot see how they can make any head way without it.
We really need to ask ourselves very basic question like how can downliners even take equity in the whole process of change, if they don’t know what are its underpinnings and rationale?
What are the resistant factors against ‘change?’ What is their story? I am not saying we need a truth and reconciliation commission to smooth out the rough edges between the blogging community and the government; but I think, you cannot discount the history of how the government has traditionally gunned down the blogging community using all it’s apparatus; neither was this done fairly either in many cases; usually there is a David vs Goliath feel to this tussle; and so it’s not very realistic for the government to say, now I am in the mood for love; I want to reach out; some people may say, go and die lah! Others will just tell you to go and fuck off!
Whether these reactions are right, wrong, proper, appropriate or constructive is in my view wholly irrelevant to the calculation of e-engagement; as a planner; these drivers of resistance need to be scaled accurately and their causal factors needs to be acknowledged and studied rather than marginalized or excused away by simply labelling them as unworthy of engagement.
Always bear in mind non engagement is a two way street; you can certainly play it, but so can others; but who wins at the end of the day?
Reading after all is basically a self selecting exercise; TOC readers may read TOC, Mr Brown readers may even read Mr Brown but what makes you think they may not read TOC, Mr Brown or the ST or even the BP?
You mean to say all you are relying on for your intelligence gathering is Technocrati stat counters? There are at least 50 ways to manipulate that machine and if we put a team full time on it, we can probably find another 100 ways!
So lets get real here. There are no Singaporekini’s here. Even if they exist, their shelve life is extremely short and their hold on pole position is even less assured.
I know this may be hard to believe with TOC claiming to be No.1 every five minutes, but bear in mind things move very fast in the internet; today they may be ahead, but tomorrow, it is anyone’s guess, it could be the Singapore Daily or even a dark horse like Sammy Boy.
My point is with so much going on – the definition of e-engagement needs to be all encompassing rather than focussed.
My feel is AIMS needs to set realistic expectations when they use the term e-engagement. They should not narrow the ambit of what this means – or even set limits upon themselves – not at this early stage.
As what we may actually be dealing with when they use the term e-engagement is something that is to not only very complex, but it is also very much a hearts & minds hubris.
That is never easy to resolve; till todate, we don’t even know how to model this outcome reliably on a computer. We can assign 5 teams to model one set of parameters and still get 25 different outcomes! It remains a very disturbing grey area for us.
In that regard having a governing philosophy will go a long way to close the divide, heal the rift and define the rules for engagement.
I think these are the strategic issues AIMS needs to consider very seriously.
Unless change is defined in this macro small sense, I don’t think it is realistic for us to expect anything to significant to emerge from AIMS.
What will probably happen here is the equivalent of pyrotechnics – a few splashes of color will go off and it will all fall black and silent again.
That may certainly please some in the crowd. But I assure you the serious people in the same crowd will not be amused.
Q: Vollariane you mentioned, the need to close the divide, heal the rift and define the rules of engagement – can you very roughly give us a scale of the cognitive dissonance here?
A: Yes, I can Y2K, but we really need to shorten this interview otherwise the only cognitive dissonance here may be we will end up putting most of our readers to sleep – I think the cognitive dissonance at this stage can be described in the following ways;
why does the government want to touch base with netizens now? Why wasn’t this strategy pursued before? What underpinnings accounts for this 180º degree change of heart? Are they trying to carve up competitive advantage in the political sphere at the expense of civil liberties? Is this merely a plan to establish a beach head in blogosphere? Who benefits most from this new initiative? What are the threats and opportunities, if any are they trying to interdict? Are they just trying to secure their hold on power? Is this just a strategy to perpetuate their class politics?
These were some of the issues highlighted during our simulation. If we had more time, we could even give you individual weightings to help you landscape these ‘concerns.’
This goes back to what I said in the first part; there is a need to prepare the ground and even regard this whole exercise as a hearts & minds initiative; whether a paradigm shift is required will come later, but this part of “preparing the ground” needs to be come out now and not later – that’s no good, it will just come back and bite you.
In a sense this problem is not dissimilar to how the brotherhood suffers from negative perception in the virtual; whenever our space fleet shows up on a planet; everyone begins to speculate; “they just want our minerals and precious metals” – you can’t blame them as every where we go; for some strange reason the game is designed where we always have to do a spot of strip mining; so there is always this mercenary tag that we need to shake off – so these days what we do is tell people with the help of a few show girls we are here to develop a marina or artificial lake with condo’s, malls, casino’s etc but somewhere here, we will also have to do some mining.
I don’t consider this a snide and under handed approach; I consider it managing perception.
As you can see for yourself; when the government says they want to project online; this is certainly not going to be a walk in the park.
Q: One last question Vollariane very quickly – could you share with us very quickly what you would have done differently, if you headed AIMS?
A: Y2K, that’s a hypothetical question. First, I don’t think I am that old that anyone would even consider taking me seriously.
But one of the first things I would do is probably acknowledge the past mistakes and oversights. I am not only talking about government here, but also netizens as well.
I think this is very important as it will allow both netizens and those who represent the government to come to terms with their past on a morally acceptable basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation – I don’t see this not as a softy, fuzzy or frivolous act – I see it as a serious strategic precondition if the desire is to seek common ground – a diplomatic condition priori even.
There is a schism here that I feel desperately needs closure – and one must just be man enough to accept responsibility for it – I think incidences like the Mr Brown saga is still very much at the forefront of the collective consciousness when we talk about collaborating with the govt.
This will not just go away for many – sure you can pretend it doesn’t exist or even label them the lunatic fringe or circulate private e-mail around telling people why these people should be cut off, but bear in mind the narrative will just continue elsewhere – it’s never going to just go away.
The second thing I would do is probably expand 99 pages out of a hundred to explain my vision for change and probably use only one paragraph to tell people what I will actually do; I would probably spell it in terms of if I win, so will you, so it pays to help me.
Based on our dealings with the virtual community. And we have nearly 900 over collaborative ventures every earth year from developing new gaming platforms to trying to figure out how to make avatars wink at girls in second life; there’s always a need to carve a solid – I win and you win relationship.
It needs to be based on sincerity, mutual respect and trust. Part of that means, we recognize from the onset, how everyone has a right to define how they wish to interact with their community.
In our gaming network for example; we once had an online community where a group of people started impersonating robots like the one in the movie 2001 Space Odyssey – this freaked out many of our own people as from time to time, these people would break into our system and erect monoliths.
These were not ordinary CGI rectangular blocks. They were state of the art multi pixellization constructs complete with even shadow rendition. These guys were years ahead of Pixar animation and Disney and many of us couldn’t understand where they got their technology from or why would anyone spend so much time and resources on just fashioning monoliths – it seems dumb http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML1OZCHixR0&feature=related, but I remember even then, Darkness had the wisdom to say let’s go with the flow on this one – at that time, I remember, he even had to fend off many of his own people to give this folk their own space as by then they had created so many enemies.
For one they insisted on only speaking to Darkness and when they communicated; they used an unusual codex language written in math notation – to break the codes down we even had to use a Spanish telephone directory – and this convulated way of communicating went on for years.
A few years later, some of us travelled to Spain to sell this group space ships and we subsequently discovered all these math genius were all from an Autistic school – eventually, their remarkable gifts were harnessed to good effect by our developers – so there you go – something was ventured and something gained – what can I say?
This was a defining lesson for all of us in more ways than we can possibly elaborate – I would like to share some of these strategies of engagement in a latter series e.g the Bee Keeper philosophy, if that is fine with you Y2K – as I feel it will add value to the whole discourse.
What I am trying to say is everyone has a right to be who they want to be online providing they don’t cross the line into crime; even if they do, there are already plenty of laws to deal with that problem; so there is always a need to provision plenty of space for improvisation. If you want polite conversations only, then go to a wine bar – who is stopping you? If you want people not to challenge what you regularly proclaim as the truth, then go and be an academic and lecture in some local institution to people who have zero life experience; who is stopping you? If you want the truth and nothing but the truth, then go and read the Encyclopedia – who is stopping you? If you want community moderation, then go and join the blogger 13; who is stopping you? If you don’t believe anonymity serves the greater good, then use the registration tool bar that wordpress provides you with to filter anonymous comments; who is stopping you? If you have difficulties reconciling security with the right to online privacy. Then go and start a Facebook account. Again who is stopping you?
My point is simply this; make sure you exhaust all your options first before you begin imposing your values on others in the name of the greater good – respect other people by giving them the right and space to be who and what they want to be here – this is after all a community.
In this regard I don’t think e-engagement is so radically different from how one conducts relationships in the real world – if you respect others, they will usually respect you back; if you disrespect them, you cannot blame them; if they choose to say; this is the line; you stay there and I will stay here.
This is common sense. It has to be. Otherwise life will simply have no meaning here or any where else.
Y2K: Thank you very much Vollariane.
Vollariane: Thank you.
[This interview was conducted by the Free Internet Library Board with Vollariane, the head of the ASDF – the think tank of the brotherhood – 2008]
September 4, 2008
This is a secret report generated by the ASDF, the think tank of the brotherhood. It is a preliminary assessment. And it is designed to familiarize all E89 space diplomats with an overview of the ongoing efforts of AIMS in 2 specific areas:
- How effective will AIMS be in being able to solicit real and meaningful change in our blogosphere? Will these changes be merely symbolic?
- What is wrong with the current methodology deployed? What are the areas which should be improved on?
(2) Main Body
Rather than concentrating on the actual efforts of AIMS. As this is already exhaustively discussed by the MSM. This report will focus on the efficacy of its approach.
(2.1) When AIMS uses the term “change” how should the “change” be rightfully measured to ensure that you are able to make sense of it?
In developing an appropriate model to simulate the various ‘what if’ scenarios; Mordecai 51 war gaming platform was settled upon by the ASDF.
From the onset the players asked the following questions which will form the assumption of this ‘what if’ simulation:
-Define the process that AIMS is trying to change? What forms the aggregate components to be changed?
-What is the best word that best describes the nature of this change?
In modeling the parametric analysis – the computer defined change as R1 – R6 –
on every single run the nature of change was satisfactory described in terms of transition from authoritarianism to democracy.
All other attempts to manipulate the program to accommodate another interpretation of the word ‘change’ failed to effectively make the simulation run.
In the assessment of the think tank, “change” must be seen accurately in this context. It was subsequently used as the model constant to run the simulation.
(3) Factors Encountered During “What If” Simulation – Possible Pitfalls That AIMS is likely to encounter in managing the process of change:
(3.1) SCENARIO 1:
AIMS needs to depoliticize itself from the established political order, it needs to be seen as an independent, impartial and non partisan organization; If it is to stand any chance of being regarded as a credible agent of change.
There currently exist a dearth of contradictions, ambiguities and contestations concerning the independence of AIMS.
Although it is widely marketed as an organization that proposes to abolish 100 sites currently barred and to do away from the need for political parties having to license themselves from the internet – these initiatives should never be equatable to ‘real’ and ‘meaningful’ change.
Central to the question of managing change requires us to ask; whether AIMS has effectively divested itself from the ruling party sufficiently to come across as appealing to the rest of broader society as a reliable agent for change?
If change is to be effectively managed, then this consideration is jugular.
Or is it another state ritual designed to establish and maintain social and political order?While ‘change’ in a general context does not impose such disciplines on planners.
In the case of AIMS since what they are in effect proposing is change in the context of transitionalizing the social political mindset; a significant part of whether it will be successful hinges directly on how effectively they are able to divest themselves from being seen as agents who are responsible for imposing state ideology from above.
It is fair to assume in the absence of any strategy to manage the perception of independence most netizens may continue to remain skeptical and even proceed to deconstruct this ‘myth of greater freedom’ by drawing attention to the numerous ambiguities and contradictions which exist in AIMS.(3.2) AIMS needs to divorce itself from it’s obsession with the strategic imperatives of political stability, nation-building and articulating national consensus; if it is to come across as a credible agent of proposing real and meaningful change.
From its very inception, a cloud of political compromise was bound up with the workings of AIMS, real or imagined. This serves to underscore the need to revivify AIMS overall vision and mission if it is to remain a credible facilitator in initiating real and effective social transformation in blogosphere.
This schism was clearly played out in 78 gaming simulations where on virtually every single occasion the gamers asked Q: How is it possible to reconcile the imperative for real and meaningful social and political change whilst balancing the strategic priorities of nation building and social stability?
The opposing gamers could not in a single instance give a good reason to satisfy the Marshalls.
This suggest, there is a very real danger AIMS efforts at instituting change will be widely perceived as procedural democracy. To paraphrase, they have form, but they lack the appearance of content.
Central to the whole discussion is the need for AIMS to reconcile two diametrically opposite ideas, driving real and meaningful change. Yet being able to maintain the strategic focus of nation building, intra faith harmony and social cohesion.
In the unanimous opinion of the gamers these competing goals cannot be effectively harmonized in an absence of a guiding ethos, theory or principle. As one gamer noted;
“Even the communist planners in China can tell you how they manage the transition from post-Maoist communist totalitarianism to free market authoritarianism. Not only can they do that, beyond Deng Xiao Peng simple black and white cat analogy. Their intellectuals can even reconstruct a plausible macro-model in conceptual and comparative terms for defining “regime identity” and assessing the nature of these social political changes with reference to fleshing out the political, ideological, economic, legal, and social dimensions. What makes this all possible is ideological underpinnings – I don’t believe, patch work cosmetic change can be a real substitute for ideological based change. AIMS should seriously consider subscribing to some higher principled logic based on precedence, text and reasoning, if they want to come across as a credible force for soliciting real and meaningful change. Otherwise they cannot be taken seriously.”
In the assessment of the think tank, all matters of state legitimacy, nation building and intra faith harmony should have been better dealt with the formation of a sub committee comprising of government agencies which reports to AIMS.
AIMS should ideally remain the steering committee, but such a multi tiered feed back system would have in the opinion of the think tank managed to effectively iron out this longstanding anomaly.
Unfortunately under the current single level committee structure, it is almost impossible for any of the members of AIMS to reaffirm the social and political integrity and legitimacy of these counter views which form the basis of real and meaningful change.
It’s fair to assume these bracketed discussion will continue elsewhere in blogosphere and remain unexplored in AIMS.
As there currently exist no effective means for members in the AIMS committee to express opposition to the strategic imperative of nation building, social stability and intra faith sensitivities.
Neither is there an interlocutory means to do so which effectively allows a fuller discussion of the maintenance of the rule of law, liberal rights and first principled rights of bloggers e.g the right to privacy and online anonymity.
In the conservative estimation of the think tank this would not only perpetuate the ritual of schism and suspicion which usually accompanies procedural democratization, but militate against the whole imperative to touch base with the blogging community. If anything it is a sure fire recipe for alienating the masses.
This paper attempts to investigate such questions as what is the nature of the change AIMS is proposing to effect in blogosphere? And is it poised to do a good job?
It endeavors to also benchmark the metrics of what is termed effective and good change i.e higher valence of democratization; one notable observation we have made is scaling the nature of ‘change’ as one that effectively attempts to shift the social political equilibrium from an authoritative system to one that is democratic.
This observation is significant in our gaming simulation as it will provide us with an accurate appraisal of what AIMS is trying to accomplish on a philosophical level.
Crafting a definitional datum will hopefully allow ordinary readers who are interested in social political developments in our blogosphere to appreciate both the scale the magnitude of the exercise embarked on.
It will also allow them to appraise whether AIMS is well poised to be an effective agent of this transition.
[This report has been compiled by the ASDF, the think tank unit of the brotherhood – documented by the FILB 2008]
September 2, 2008
“When General George Yeo started blogging. I asked myself, why would such a prestigious man court danger. It makes no sense. You see blogging is something that you and I can do with relative ease, but for a minister, it is not so easy. Trust me gentlemen. There are penalties along with a host of pesky reasons.
For one he has to be adept enough to navigate through the thicket and all the nonsense. There is a real cost here and it is sharpened considerably by the reality of how feral the net actually was when he entered the fray. And how blogging was after all perceived by even his peers and MSM as nothing more than an indolent past time. It is easy for us to discount this now.
But despite this he has seen fit to do so in his quiet way. Yes, you can say what he writes usually reads like card board chicken. It is really nothing close to what we usually produce, but I would say nonetheless there are some gems. I remember, he once wrote about a Sikh who was tied to a pole to atone for his sins against his community. I remember thinking about this for a very long time and it was even discussed widely amongst us and probably found it’s way into some of our articles. Its somewhere floating around in cyberspace. So we can say a few things here, he has certainly made a difference in his little way by being an all weather producer in our internet. That is something those talking heads can certainly learn from in the P-65 blog. All I see there is bunch of confused people who have grown despondent as they do not know how to really prosper in internet. They lack patience and dedication.
Many things can be said about this. I am not surprised, he was first trained as a scholar soldier, then a diplomat, so he has gone through many of the ropes to know the art of long road like many in our own space diplomatic corps. Rome was not built in one day.
You can say he has made a conscious decision to reach out for whatever the price or reason. I consider this admirable. We can learn from his example.
My brothers what good is the brotherhood if we cannot say, this a man that we should all emulate to some degree? Are we not sportsmen after all?
We have never been afraid to learn from others. We are respected in the virtual as we are considered ultimate sportsmen; if we win, it is never by going behind the back door or trickery; we have always done it fair and square.
Part of that requires a certain open mindedness to seek out the good points in others whenever we see it. From the Jew, we learnt how tradition can give us all a deep spirited sense of belonging; the French taught us the meaning of fraternity -brotherhood, so we turn no one away because of his creed, race, culture or even nationality. From the Muslims we have learnt the meaning of setting aside a proportion for those in need.
I have studied the works of their great intellectuals and many of these values are worthy of emulation.
So let us learn from his example. Many people will say there is nothing to learn here. They are stupid. I say we can learn alot from his daring, panache, aplomb and sheer sportsmanship that really elevates him from a mere politician to the upper reaches of what I term a statesman.
A statesman that even I cannot claim to be, I still have many years of training before I can call myself one, but I know one when I see one.
The qualities General Yeo personifies what we all admire, respect and often term sportsmanship.
He shall go down in our history as the father who once brought politics to the common man in the internet. Others will follow in his wake, I am sure. They may even write better, but he was the first and to be the first requires vision and as sportsmen, we cannot take that away from him.
Guild see to it, by the end of the decade I want a space station to be christened the KDD General George Yeo.”
This was once posted in a obscure site in APICS in response to a forummers question – BG George Yeo has come up with a competitition, we encourage all to participate in it. I just felt it was timely to republish what once Darkness wrote -Y2K http://www.whenigrowup.sg/