Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A call for miscellaneous assistance!

Because of some recent projects that have me whelmed, I could use some time-saving help.

1. I need images! Drawings, film stills, anything that seems to illustrate:

* Cave or tribal peoples engaged in any kind of activity that might even vaguely resemble a COCKTAIL PARTY. In other words, gathering in fair numbers, but chatting to each other in small sub groups. NOT gathering around fire and chanting together.

* Images of people at a modern cocktail party AND diners at a restaurant (need both: long shots with other conversations in background)...

* Some kind of screen shot showing hot, cutting edge collaboration-in-action, e.g. a meeting in progress in which several people a video-imaged on screen while sharing data.

One example: the best of GROOVE. Also, something showing a really expensive arrangement, with executives talking to each other using big, multiple monitors.

If you know of some images that might suit, let me know under comments. Thanks!

2. In SciFi.com's newsletter, the SCIFIPEDIA is advertised as "Sci Fi's free encyclopedia that anyone can add to". Yet another Wiki. Cool. Though (ahem) a bit sparse on Brin articles. http://scifipedia.scifi.com/index.php/Main_Page

3. Reminder that there are some fresh ideas for opposition candidates this year, that can be found at http://www.davidbrin.com/readiness2.html and at http://www.davidbrin.com/contract.html Know any progressives running for office? If even one dem candidate were brave and imaginative enough to run with issues like this....

4. As you know, I have long dabbled in the theory and practical arts of deliberation and disputation. I had the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society's Benefit." or at: http://www.davidbrin.com/disputationarticle1.html This one is intense, scholarly and detailed.

At the opposite, end, my novel EARTH portrayed a world empowered by enhanced citizen deliberation. A theme pursued in an award-winning nonfiction book: The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

Now, my attention has been drawn to the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation... (http://thataway.org/). “NCDD's mission is to bring together and support people, organizations, and resources in ways that expand the power of conversation to benefit society. We believe that elevating the quality of thinking and communication in organizations and among citizens is key to solving humanity's most pressing problems.”

Consider this to be my touting of that org’s goal and mission. I have yet to learn whether they are doing it effectively. Indeed, a myriad obstacles lie in their path. The obstacle raised by the right is obsessive secrecy and cronyism, which destroys fair deliberation. The obstacle raised by the left is often harder to notice... an emphasis on the “touchy-feely” aspects of discourse, forgetting that deliberation is often most effective, as a problem solving tool, when it manifests as fair and openminded competition or disputation.

But more on that anon.


fpoole said...

If you're looking for actual tracks when you say "GROOVE", I just finished my best neurofunk track yet... ;)

Catfish 'n Cod said...

(repost to assure Brin eyeball coverage)

Earth Predictive Hit: cooperation between hunters and environmentalists resumes!

Remember the North American Church of Gaia endorsing the International Fowl Association, despite protests from the radicals?

"The Emerging Envrionmental Majority", by Christina Larson

'There's a thaw in relations between greens and hunters. It could heat up big-time over global warming.'

Mark Brown said...

Hi David, & all:
Just wanted all to know that the FIRST portion (6 posts) of RumSFelD's Rules in my blog (Verbatim) can be found if you follow this search:
I finished the Rules for White House staffers, next is Keeping your bearings in the White House!
Cheers: Markb in NJ (markbnj.blogspot.com)

-cman- said...

Hi David:

Check out istockphoto.com for some ideas. They are a community-based stock photo and illustration site. I did a rather cursory search and came up with a couple of possibles for you:

Modern Crowds:
Interactive Meeting:

Sorry, nothing with neandertals and cocktails.

David Brin said...

thanks cman. These are good stabs. But mostly to refine the notion of what I am looking for. The dance scene is too crowded and un-conversationsl. The restaurant is nice but I need other groups of diners in the background, saying things that the foregound folks MIGHT overhear. The business "meeting" I am talking about is heavily e- and i- weighted... lots of remote presence by at least some of the participants.

By coincidence, today's BIZARRO cartoon shows cavemen holding a formal business meeting! Still, one showing them - or tribal people - cocktail partying is my real yearning!

This provoked a striking thought! We all have images of tribal people in mind. Sometimes engaged in individual activity. Or segregated group activities (women gathering or farming, men hunting or doing rituals)... or engaging in group ritual song/dance/ceremonies. But I never thought before about the narrowness of this range. I cannot call up any images of SOCIALIZING the way we would at a party. Individuals schmoozing with other individuals in a larger group setting.

Is this western mypoia? We often patronize tribal peoples and other ethnicities by only seeing that which is "admirably nonwestern". Some Peace Corps enthusiasts have actually urged locals not to wear t-shirts but instead go back to their "true" (but scratchy) reed garments. (Naturally, except on ceremony days, the locals laugh and refuse. Duh.)

In this case, do visitors simply not see, and not photograph, socialization that doesn't fit the image of communitarian unity?

On the other hand, maybe non-communitarian, disorganized, individual-centered socialization truly IS rare in a tribal setting. I am just musing informally. Unsure of the implications.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you don't get cocktail parties until you have city states, agriculture, and BEER!

I think there are old drawings of mesopotamians sipping beer. Don't remember anything about parties, though.

Of course, remember that it is the literate and powerful who record history. A stew of people mixing about and gabbing while downing cloudy barley beer may not strike the royal scribes or shaman as worthy of recording for posterity. Better to flatter the king or chief!

jomama said...

I'm sure the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation is an idea thought highly of in the circles of conventional wisdom.

Now Steiger's Law comes to mind:

"People involved in a structure spend more time and energy maintaining that structure than in working toward its goals."

There's got to be a better way without the trappings of institutions which are, by nature, incapable of thinking.

Rob Perkins said...

I suspect, David, that it might not be Western myopia, to assume that ancient cultures, let alone other cultures, would gather in a cocktail party; I've always been under the impression that such a thing stems from recent sociological pressures, say, of the last 150 years, than from anything truly ancient.

More recent but still different social gathering seems (from depictions in Austen novels, among others) to have been much more formal and formalized than a cocktail party, but to still have the same dynamic as one, where there are seperate but not separated conversations, perhaps overlapping, etc.

In other words, people went to a ball.

And if they can't afford or were in the wrong socioeconomic class for an invitation to a ball, there were the informal gatherings at a rural British public house, being the center of a certain kind of tribe/village, might that fit the bill, as something whose form hasn't changed in a good long time?

Another good idea might be the American "barn raising", or perhaps you might do with pictures from activities at a Mennonite commune or a kibbutz? (sp?)

As to the third scene, Thomas Friedman describes exactly that in his book, The World is Flat, which has a sister documentary shown a couple of years ago on the Discovery Channel. Perhaps a note to him at the NY Times would unearth a picture or two?

David Brin said...

I am generalizing "cocktail party" to mean any loose, reconfiguring relaxed gathering of people who socialize in small groups within the larger crowd. Take a barbeque.

Yes, alcohol is a lubricant in such settings. But they also happen teetotal. While I am hoping for images of this kind of gathering in a clearly tribal setting, (barbeque-like?), I am stirred by the dissonance, that I have no memory of ever seeing such an image, in such a setting. As if tribal peoples, when socializing, are always depicted as regimented ... er, I mean, communitarian... in the celebration.

Jomama said: "There's got to be a better way without the trappings of institutions which are, by nature, incapable of thinking."

Actually, this is a cliched truism and one of the cornerstones of modern cynicism. It has some basis, in the worry that monolithic, hierarchical institutions HAVE been repressively oversimplifying in most societies...

... and it does incredible harm today, by fostering cynicism toward the very institutions that AREN'T like this! The "accountability arenas" that I talk about elsewhere, which are the key inventions of progressive, modernist, pragmatic-enlightenment civilization.

These institutions are designed exactly with the intent of RAISING the effective intelligence of the group HIGHER than the sum of its members. Moreover, these arenas have worked remarkably well.

Jomama, you really need to visit my essay re the catastrophic error of cynicism:

Your neighbors are not (in aggregate) as stupid as they look (in person.)

Anonymous said...

Here is a picture of the virtual conference room mentioned in The World Is Flat.

The picture probably has copyright restrictions and stuff, though.

Anonymous said...


I've been looking around but dont see any images of this sort of informal "cocktail" , I wonder whether it requires a ceertain number of people in your social group before you need an event to mingle, after all if you are working alongside people all day - the people you grew up with you get lots of chances to talk to them, and of course with both family and tribal heirachies who can say waht to whome is probably quite restricted by custom if not by (tribal)law.

Tony Fisk said...

You could try adding that snippet to the wiki at http://earthbydavidbrin.pbwiki.com
(Key's under the mat. Yes, I could cut and paste, but that's not the point of collaborative authoring ;-)

Is this for HC?

I suspect that that 'cocktail' parties were reserved for more formal occasions, such as when tribes got together for a corroborree. Most photos/pictures of such occassions concentrate on the ceremony, not the onlookers. A quick scan of google images wasn't helpful... but then, I didn't say corroboree...

Hmmm. Here's a few (but I don't think they're what you're after)
- http://www.wga.hu/html/g/glover/corrobor.html
- http://www.knowhowtravel.com.au/kuranda.php
- http://www.oceania-ethnographica.com/index.html (this has a lot of old ethnic photographs..and, like I said, most early photos tend to be formal)
- kava ceremonies? http://images.google.com.au/url?q=http://www.janeresture.com/oceania_kava/

David Ivory said...


You can try Corbis for images...

Tribal Crowd (cocktail party = search term)






But unfortunately they're not free - $80 to $100 USD or so. The Corbis website has a lot of images well tagged so you can search for more images - that at least is free.

An alternative is Flickr


But the tags and photos are not so good - and you'll need to chase the owners for permission.

Hope this helps.

Rob Perkins said...

Yes, alcohol is a lubricant in such settings. But they also happen teetotal.

Visit any Mormon "ward party" for evidence of that.

Rob Perkins said...

In thinking about the dissonance David talks about, I wonder if there is a critical mass of population necessary before a gathering like a barbeque or a cocktail party becomes desirable.

In any small-isolated village setting, it occurs to me that "everyone knows everyone else", with each family in the village doing one specific kind of specialized work, supporting the farms surrounding it with their specialities. In that case noone would need a gathering like a cocktail party, or it would take the form of a town meeting (such as are held in Massachusetts rural areas?) in which the conversations and casual gatherings would take place before or after the meeting, or the formalized social gathering.

Such a thing goes back at least three hundred years, to a time when our forbears were burning and drowning young women as witches. I'd suppose such a thing would be primitive enough for all of us!

Perhaps the myopia comes from wanting to see this sort of thing in ancient tribes *foreign* to Judaeo-Christian society, instead of merely looking back to those gatherings in our own direct history.

Anonymous said...

re: Scifipedia.

I don't expect anything of it. They've got a decent seed of content, but there seems to be no point to it. The software is inferior to Wikipedia, it's harder to sign up for than Wikipedia, it's apparently under a non-Free proprietary license etc.

And it is not like there's any real reason to not work on Wikipedia's articles- there's more of them, there's more people to help out, they are Free as in speech and free as in beer. About the only sectors of sci-fi fans that have been mistreated by the deletion processes have really been the Star Wars and Star Trek segments- and they already have excellent wikis of their own.

The only possible advantages I can see are whomever frequents scifi.com (an unlikely advantage- they would no doubt have heard of/used Wikipedia before) and the industry connections they think they can leverage. I'm kinda skeptical of the latter; whatever those insiders post can probably be used under fair use in Wikipedia, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Here's another interesting snippet which shouldn't be out of place here...

Dolphins Name Themselves

Bjorn Carey
LiveScience Staff Writer

A high-pitched "wee-o-wee-o-wee-o-wee" whistle might not sound like much to you, but it's exactly how a dolphin might introduce itself.

Because sight is limited in the ocean, dolphins create individual "name" calls to communicate their whereabouts to friends and families.
But it's not as simple as just recognizing a voice, as with most animals. A new study reveals that the calls contain frequency changes that dolphins recognize.

Humans are one of the few animals that use sound modulation instead of simple voice differences to identify individuals. For example, a person can recognize the name "John" whether it's being said by Gilbert Gottfried or James Earl Jones.
Scientists have long known that dolphins identify themselves with names, but the belief was that, like some monkeys, the animal's voice was the key ingredient of the call.

A team of researchers led by Vincent Janik of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland temporarily captured seven male and seven female bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay in Florida. Janik and his crew recorded the name calls of each dolphin, and digitally removed the voice features of each call. (...) "Every dolphin has its own voice," Janik told LiveScience. "But we removed those features and showed that the animals are actually paying attention to the modulation and not the voice."

A dolphin chooses its own name as an infant and uses it throughout its life. "It seems like the animals hear what's around them, and then they make up their own whistle," Janik said. "They either develop something original ... or they base it on parts of the whistles around them."

Regardless of the method, the young dolphins want to make their call stand apart from the calls of their closest relatives. Communicating by sight is difficult underwater, so dolphins use these calls to let other dolphins know they're nearby. A dolphin will also call out its name if it's lost and distressed, hoping relatives will come to its aid.
The study is detailed in this week's early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

Please check out: http://www.groupsupport.com/EN/index.html

A developer of group discussion systems in The Netherlands.
They also have some images on their site that may suit some of your requirements...