28 Jul 2010
Chris Diehl, a friend of Meedan who works on machine learning at Lawrence Livermore and is at the Hopkins Center of Excellence for the summer, asked me if I would swing by Hopkins and give a talk during my epic east coast summer tour 2010. Having just met Chris Calison-Burch from Hopkins at the UMD working group on crowdsourcing translation, I did not hesitate to accept the offer.
The fear of speaking in front of an audience from an advanced research lab for an hour is a powerful motivator to put together some interesting thoughts and insights. I decided this would be a good place to put a bit more flesh on some ideas which run through the center of Meedan- thoughts on the multi-lingual web and the globalization of understanding, and on diversity in ideas and viewpoints being as valuable as genetic diversity in an ecosystem. So I poured some tea, invited the powerpoint muse to sit with me, and began the work. Then I started getting the IMs, tweets, and emails. "Ed, check out Ethan's talk at TED." "Dear Ed, It was nice to talk with you last week about Meedan, I thought you would be interested in this TED talk by Ethan Zuckerberg [sic]." "I hrd @ethanz just gave an amzing TED talk." Of course Ethan Zuckerman is a good friend and a long time project advisor. Moreover, he is not the non-evil twin; his last name is Zuckerman.
I clicked through to Ethan's posted notes from his TED talk.
That was the talk me and my muse were working on...damn.
What to do??
Naturally, I hit on the idea of reframing and remixing Ethan's talk. Searching for inspiration on this I moved from the tea to the tea leaves. Nothing. Undaunted, I put a kite up in the stormy skies of my imagination. The arc from the bolt of lightening to the key on my kite to the vision in my mind sent me running for google image search ...unbelievable...remarkable.
It was immediately clear that I was not simply going to remix Ethan's talk, I was going to remix Ethan himself.
So, I sent a tweet off to Ethan asking whether I could remix his identity, and, if so, under what license.
He responded, "CC-Zero". So, having cleared the copyright issues, I set about remixing @ethanz.
It turns out @EthanZ is Ben Franklin returned, the Dalai Franklin.
The internet loves this sort of discovery. It also loves Ethan. I bet @dalaifranklin is even an available twitter handle. All forces are aligned. It would be perfectly ironic for a senseless meme to evolve to promote the work of the man whose work is showing the world how truly dangerous senseless memes are (to wit, Michael Jackson's death diverting the global gaze from #iranelection).
With this I am suggesting that Ethan's TED talk might stand as the 234 year refresh on the Declaration of Independence. Or, as I state in the slides,
Birthing/building a diverse, global, internet is the modern equivalent of Franklin’s work building the framework for the modern democratic nation state.
We are perhaps in an era in which the structure that defines the nation state might be less important than the structure of the system we use to distribute and access data and information. The challenge in our interconnected world bypasses the many to one structure of democracy, it requires a many to many system wherein the success of the system is primarily dependent the range and diversity of information or data sources accessed by nodes in the system.
This is the grand challenge and for the digital optimists among us this seems as good a time as any to find a Dalai Franklin and with him to chart a new design for global living, a Declaration of Interdependence.