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<nettime> I Guess You Had to Have Been There: A Reflection on Not Going
Michael Gurstein on Wed, 14 Jan 2004 21:16:42 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> I Guess You Had to Have Been There: A Reflection on Not Going to WSIS



A Reflection on Not Going to WSIS

I've been following the discussions around WSIS now for more than two
years. 

Reading and occasionally contributing to the e-lists, following the
documents as they tumble one after the other into the electronic spaces,
saving trees (one assumes) but overloading bandwidths. 

I never had the opportunity (obligation) to attend any of the
formal/semi-formal (PrepCon) events leading up to the Summit nor the
Summit itself. 

So I have been in a rather singular position (although I'm assuming that
there are many many others in a similar situation), of being informed,
knowledgeable, having something to contribute, perhaps wanting to take
something away, but in the end being presented with an event where apart
from the occasional creaky attempts at "sharing the experience" through
one or another streaming media event, WSIS might just as well for me,
sitting a half a world away, have been the World Summit on the
Incunablia Society, with aged and bent scholars discussing learned texts
in hushed and darkened rooms cloistered from the hurly burly (the hoi
poloi...

Where, in the midst of the all the to-ing and fro-ing of the WSIS, was
there (apart from fairly heroic efforts on the part of the CRIS and
Civil Society folks) any attempt to actually use Information Technology
in a way that would include/engage "the world" (it was a "World Summit"
after all) in the discussions/deliberations. 

And now of course, the sum ups are saying that nothing much was
accomplished and from this side of the telescope, that seems correct.

Certainly, the fact that the WSIS process was not thrown open to the
digital on-line ICT enabled world is what could have been expected from
the ITU and the countries looking to maintain their prerogatives. But I
think that Civil Society lost a major major opportunity, perhaps a once
for all opportunity, to insist, to use all of their efforts and
influence to force open the process. To get those organizing and
implementing the Summit to use some of the technologies that those many
folks assembled to pontificate about, to actually engage the people who
are living/working/evolving with it day by day and to develop processes
for enabling broader ICT-enabled participation including among those
without direct access.

Surely if Quake can handle several hundred thousand people
simultaneously building imaginary worlds, the UN, the Swiss Government
and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all could have done something equally
interesting and useful in giving similar or even greater numbers of
people the opportunity to contribute to building a real world.

Had "Civil Society" lead the charge around this at WSIS then they could
have begun the process of once for all answering the rather
uncomfortable but not illegitimate questions about their
representativeness and accountability.  By not doing so, and by allowing
themselves to be dragged into the unending and spirit destroying process
of arguing over square brackets and misplaced commas, "Civil Society"
unfortunately seemed ever more the representative of Christmas's past,
than Christmas's yet come.  

Yes Marshall, the Medium is the Message.

Mike Gurstein
 
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