Notes from Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger

I mangle the quotes to tell me story. The gist is a true reflection but it’s not the exact words.

p4 – Both “our” world and the “mirror world” – the world of the conspiracy theorists, agree that post-shock states of discombobulation have been opportunistically exploited in many different contexts. Both groups have a (p24) skepticism of elite power. p53 – The words the mirror world use are essentially fantasy. But emotionally, to many people they clearly feel true. And the reason they feel true is that we are indeed living through a revolution in surveillance tech, and state and corporate actors have indeed seized outrageous powers to monitor us, often in collaboration and coordination with one another. Moreover, as a culture, we have barely begun to reckon with the transformational nature of this shift.

p4 – A state of shock is what happens to us—individually or as a society—when we experience a sudden and unprecedented event for which we do not yet have an adequate explanation.
Covid is the state of shock that is the main topic of this book. I am interested in climate change, and I became interested in this because of the shock of an extreme drought in Cape Town around 2014 – 2018, which coincided with Trump’s election and hence a lot of writing about why people were behaving this way.

As intellectuals we have a decent understanding of the complexities and why simple actions aren’t enough. But we don’t have alternatives. During the drought people asked me what they could do to reduce their risk of running out of water and I didn’t know what to tell them. My colleagues didn’t know what to tell them. We knew to tell them what *not* to do, don’t drill boreholes, you exhaust the savings account that is groundwater, don’t drink the spring water (it is seepage from the mountain, not a deep origin spring) because it could make you sick,but we didn’t have anything to say people *could* do.

The mirror world understands the big issues. They understand that phones do the same thing as the “chip in the vaccine”.
p53 – They just don’t know what to do about cell phones (or smart speakers or search histories or shadow banning or email and social media metadata …). And neither, it seems, does anyone else, including those in power, who are patently unwilling to rein in what the Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff has called “surveillance capitalism.” (ref 5 in the book).

p56 – Vaccine passports aren’t a social credit system, but social media itself kind of is.
Social media is critical to many people’s livelihood and sense of self, so getting rid of it doesn’t feel possible. But rejecting a vaccine passport is doable. It is a feasible action. Nevermind that it is misguided, it gives us something to do.

so, p5 – The mirror world has wacky stories, But at least those stories exist—and that alone is enough to make them better than the nothingness of the gap.

The populists leading the mirror world have punchy “Five Freedoms” campaigns, Ten step actions plans. They are p53 – giving their followers something to do.

So, we must learn from that. Peduncle as an idea exists to (p5) Gather together, find your footing and your story. And your actions.

Naomi Klein talks about doubling, and doppelgangers, this mirror world, and alternative facts. p5 –  When reality starts doubling, refracting off itself, it often means that something important is being ignored or denied—a part of ourselves and our world we do not want to see—and that further danger awaits if the warning is not heeded.

p21 – How do we build an alternative to what we have at the moment, a fake communal experience in these lonely and anxious times?

p23 – Fear distracts people from judging the accuracy of the content they may read online

p25 When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears.”(Ref 25 in the book). But we aren’t transcending to something higher, just less ourselves. p31 – We go on social media to juice our numbers, while complaining about how much we hate the “hell sites.”
My concern (irritation?) with FOSS alternatives like Mastodon, is that it doesn’t fundamentally change this dynamic. I think we can do better in a visual, perhaps virtual space. Which yes, also needs to protect our data and not reduce things to clicks and likes, the attention economy.

Another concern is in my quest to help people live less lonely, more insightful lives in the real world, facilitated by the virtual world, is that these lines have a risk of blurring. p37 – The storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 is an arguable example. People showed up cosplaying the role of rebels in face paint and fur. The fantasy of being in a MMORPG and the reality had become one and the same. How do we prevent people radicalising to – and populists encouraging this to their own benefit – turn reality into a game played with live ammunition?

p40, 41, Hannah Arendt apparently writes in the book The Origins of Totalitarianism, that it is when everyday people lose their capacity for internal dialogue and deliberation, and find themselves only able to regurgitate slogans and contradictory platitudes, that great evil occurs. So, too, when people lose the ability to imagine the perspectives of others, or as she put it in her essay “Truth and Politics,” “making present to my mind the standpoints of those who are absent.” (ref 34 in the book) In that state of literal thoughtlessness (i.e., an absence of thoughts of one’s own), totalitarianism takes hold.
How do we turn this around, gently, and with an ethic of care. Is this possible using a virtual platform?

p50 – walling off that which is inherently connected rarely ends well.

So, p56 talks about how to fight this, demanding an information commons that can be counted upon as a basic civic right. The tech writer and theorist Ben Tarnoff, in his book Internet for the People, argues that this is an achievable goal but it must begin with a process of “deprivatization”(Ref 60 in the book)—putting the tools that have become our public square into the public’s hands, under democratic control. “To build a better internet, we need to change how it is owned and organized,” Tarnoff writes, adding, “What is at stake is nothing less than the possibility of democracy—a possibility that an internet organized by the profit motive precludes.”(ref 61 in the book).

I agree with this, I believe in this, which is why I include the importance of structured and open data – SOLID – in the metaverse, why we need an open metaverse. But that paragraph about an information commons doesn’t sound like a punchy 10 step plan for me. it sounds academic and intellectual and the job of people in ivory towers who, let’s be honest, will probably fuck it up, make something clunky that will never scale. How do we actionalise “deprivatization” in a constructive, erm, populist way?

What I have realised in the past few days, trying to pitch my idea to funders and potential collaborators, is that the “FLOSS” part doesn’t help, actually. It talks about the lofty ideology of peduncle, but not about the benefit to potential users. Why would someone want to use it?

On the other hand, after hours of discussion with one potential teammate, we digressed into cool games:

indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:15
Or apocalyptical. I was thinking a game where you colonise the earth after the apocalypse, and then you can alter the environment, but some things can't change, so if you choose, say, a place prone to drought, sorry for you buddy
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:16
Sounds cool.
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:16
So it is educational because it is built on the real world, but you can mess with some stuff, and maybe higher levels or a different mode you can really mess with things, like, gravity.
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:16
dude! sell that.
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:18
Yeah ok, so how? How does one do that?
There'd be space in there for you too, right?
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:18
Make a plan, business model and find a VC.
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:18
Because I would need a fork of the game for scenario planning research work stuff 
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:19
I don't know what I would contribute to building a game. Networking maybe. But, I don't think that is my direction.
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:19
God I hate VCs
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:19
it is what it is.
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:19
No but the data! It's still the same thing, it's still pulling in the data
The visual and dev work is just shared between the game and this project we've been talking about. It's the same thing though
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:20
If you were to base it on real world data. That would be AWESOME!
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:20
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:20
I am not in for fictional.
And the hard thing about real world is it's not procedural. I get stuck there every time
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:21
A serious game should teach people stuff without them knowing they are learning serious stuff.
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:21
I want people to have a blast and the next day go, wait, hang on, was that real? Does it really work like that? And go off a wiki rabbithole and whatnot
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:21
indiebio — 05/10/2023 20:21
And no one is wagging fingers at them to get them to do the right thing; they figure it out themselves.
Otherperson — 05/10/2023 20:23
The wierdest stuff about pervasive games, is where you reference real stuff with the players knowing about it; they bump into the reference and mind blown.

When I was talking about the serious data management and strengthening local governance. we’re serious and interested, and reserved. When we talk about apocalyptic games, I get “Sounds cool.” But when we start mashing the real world together, that’s when we get “AWESOME”. And yet, all of these are the same. We just speak of them differently.

p57 – Tarnoff’s recommendations are less a prescriptive checklist of to-dos than an urgent call for experimentation.

Well, there you go then.

p57 – There is no silver bullet for deprivatizing the information sphere, but, he argues, the internet can be taken back piece by piece, including through internet service providers owned by communities rather than conglomerates. (This is the Solidbox, or solid pods, for example, which could be gamified, in that game, somehow, like extra points or survivor power or something if you store your data there rather than a cloudserver). From the edges to the core, from the neighborhoods to the backbones, making a democratic internet must be the work of a movement.” (Ref 63 in the book)

Let’s stop there for this post. That’s a start.

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