plenty of pics, lots of pax - and the occasional (vox) pox on all our houses


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Potholes (or showing versus telling)

Interesting idea here, rather along the lines of what I proposed not long ago here.  But there is a problem - and one that I am aware of as I continue to post photos to this website.  It's the issue of how free we can be to register our public spaces and share them on the Internet, raised interestingly in this post by John Naughton, who points us to Jeff Jarvis writing in the Guardian:
We in the media tend to view the internet in our own image. But the internet is not a medium. Instead, as Cluetrain Manifesto author Doc Searls argues, it is a place. Think of it as a public park. You may not be selectively kept out because of your association with a race, religion … or aggregator. “Linking,” says Bartlett [Struan Bartlett, founder of NewsNow, an aggregator that Murdoch papers are now blocking from linking to their content], “is a common public amenity.”

I fear that what is really in danger here is the doctrine of openness on which ­journalism and an informed society depend. Pertinent are the arguments around ­Google’s Streetview, which takes pictures of buildings and the people who happen to be in front of them. Some object that these photos violate their privacy. But they are in public. What they do there is public.
As Jarvis concludes, quite radically:
I understand that people caught on Streetview might not want us to see them strolling into a drug den or brothel. But if we give anyone the right to restrict our use of that image or information, then we also give the mayor the right to gag us when we want to publish a picture of him skulking into that opium parlour.

What’s public is public – that is, we, the public, have a right to observe, point to, share, and comment on it. And the internet is public.
Now let's transfer the discussion to potholes, the object of my previous post. It seems to me that there are two narratives we can engage in with respect to such a mundane subject: one, tell the story of a participative community of well-meaning citizens who wish to contribute to improving their surroundings as quickly and efficiently as possible; two, spread the idea of a nit-picking community of politically motivated citizens who aim to extract as much political capital out of the manifest deficiencies of a local council.

So which road should we follow? I know which road I'd prefer. In reality, though, I suppose most real worlds will be an uneasy combination of the two and - even as I am aware of the dangers of the latter narrative - I am sure I will on occasions myself find it difficult to resist the temptation of telling what might broadly be termed rather unhelpful stories.

Which hardly reflects well on my own instincts, does it?

That, I think, simply shows how corrosive politics can be.

It also brings me to an awfully dangerous pothole at the right turn from Newton Lane into Brook Lane, heading into town. Probably half a metre long as it goes across the road and fifteen centimetres wide, it clearly needs to be reported.

I can't believe it hasn't - but as I strive to engage with the former narrative I will phone up first thing tomorrow. Photographic evidence to follow if nothing is done about it.

In the meantime, and more widely, I will continue to try and juggle the two narratives as constructively as I can: explain and, more importantly, in the best Jamesian tradition possible, show what a great place Chester is to live in as well as judiciously strive to point out manifest deficiencies which should in no way be interpreted as reflecting badly on the wonderful people who have chosen to inhabit this area.

How to prevent the governors from inextricably and deliberately linking themselves with the fate and nature of the governed, in fact.

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