Circus 2.0

September 28, 2008

My commenters are obsessing over the woes of STFC as usual, but I can’t quite get in the swing of it.   Instead, I am enjoying two weeks of astro-geekery. First up was the .Astronomy Conference in Cardiff; then a workshop in Cambridge to work out how to take forward the VO agenda in the UK ; and this coming week, the twice yearly VOTECH meeting.

Various folk have already blogged about .Astronomy  – Stuart Lowe, Chris Lintott, Sarah Askew, and the Master of Ceremonies, Robert Simpson (aka Orbiting Frog)  keeping the twitter going. It was a very virtual meeting, with a distributed audience following the meeting on Ustream, and intercontinental video  talks by Phil PlaitPamela Gay, Alberto Conti and others.  Apparently Alberto invented Google in a bar one evening, or something like that. Highlight for me was learning about the WETI Institute. Their big idea is that there is no point searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Just wait for it. They have a screensaver you can download. There is no need to be connected to the Internet, because the aliens will find a way to contact you anyway.  Check out the WETI web page. Its a hoot.

Of course everybody under thirty was dead keen on all the Web 2ish things – blogs, twittering, YouTube, Facebook, adding your own stuff to Google Sky and so on. Unlike the old fashioned plain brown Web, Web 2.0 is famously democratic and participatory. Its the people’s Web ! You don’t just read stuff, you change it ! Call me an old cynic, but I’m not so sure. All this stuff relies on an infrastructure provided by a handful of massive corporations. They set the parameters. They can switch it off any time they like. They can change the rules so you can only write about approved subjects. They can do a deal with the FBI. You won’t even know. The illusion of participation is really just a Circus. Every time you update your status on FaceBook thats another five minutes you have avoided thinking about who has the power and why.

But lets not get depressed. Next week Wakeham reports, and we will have such fun.