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Wi-Fi toting bloggers invade Parliament

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Today is Bastille Day, a day of great significance to the French - and today, in London Town, webloggers will breach the walls of Britain's Parliament, and set up a Wi-Fi network!

It's a landmark for blog-lobbyists: so like the rest of the media, we must indulge their vanity, if only for a moment. Today's infraction is organised by something called The Work Foundation, and the Foundation's James Crabtree told us in an email (with a subject line: 'Bloggers Storm Parliament'): "It is also the first time Wi-Fi has ever been used in parliament, as we have permission from the sergeat at arms to set up a wi-fi network. So, it should be fun."

Spookily so, no doubt. But we must ask, how long can the public be expected to indulge this latest incarnation of techno-utopians? Especially one that apotheosizes what one reader cruelly called "the lint of the Internet"? Patience, by now, must surely be wearing thin?

Consider that once upon a time, these techno-utopians promised us the Earth. At one time, they promised to correct the historical naffness of capitalism - its inclination to go kaput! at regular intervals - with promises of dazzling wizardry (cf. 'wireless', or 'The Internet'), and they even had the nerve to call it, at one point, 'The Long Boom'.

Sheep would shit grass, and we'd all live happily and prosperously, for the Eternal ever after. But this latest publicity stunt, coming as it does into a technophilia-induced depression that doesn't ever seem to end, asks us to trust them once again, with weblogs delivering the missing magic. So it's a bit of a come-down from the promises of the glory days, for sure, and it provides easy fodder for the likes of us. And you.

Judging from our mailbag - a hefty and pretty sassy one from two million or more Register readers - your Indifference to this crowd is remarkable.

It's not that weblogs are all bad - there are some very good ones, and many are as good as you can expect good-hearted volunteers to be - but a few people staying indoors a bit longer, bashing away solipsisms at their expensive computers - does not make for a social revolution. By definition. Nor are RSS feeds quite the turn-on for the public as atom-smashing, Sputniks or flying cars, and all those things you read about at school, popular culture icons that told us that we must trust the boffins and the world would turn out just fine.

In his Doonesbury strip, Garry Trudeau has already aimed a well-aimed lampoon at this phenomenon: with a series of cartoons last year pointing out the gulf between the webloggers' self-importance and their social marginalisation. In time, no doubt, some wag at Private Eye will discover the 'true' derivation of the word 'blog', which they will explain in Ancient Greek means 'boring'... and a whole new spate of boffin-bashing will begin.

But how did they get into such a mess?

Well, blog-lobbyists have overlooked a couple of truths. Firstly, evangelists for a specific mode or incarnation of a technology, or, if you like, fetishists for a particular kind of tool, usually get filed, quite rightly, alongside members of the tinfoil hat army. Sad, but true. If you can't get laid without your 'tool' - and blog-lobbyists seem to be a bunch of people who can't get laid without showing off their weblog credentials (perhaps they never meet other people except through weblogging?) then the scene does have a bit of a foul hum about it. You have noticed. Noted.

And secondly, the hallmark of a popular mass-market technology is that it kind of slips into people's lives without very much hype. Think of VCRs and mobile phones. Or fax machines. You had one because you thought it was useful, not because someone told you needed to have it.

So heavens only knows what British MPs will make of this latest, frantic exhibition of technophilia. The bloggers shouldn't be showing them Wi-Fi, or (Lord, help us), the latest enhancements to Movable Type. They should be showing them where to find pornography and free music - two things the discredited Internet can still provide in gratifyingly reliable quantities.

So at least technology is good for something. ®

Related Links

The Internet Is shit [poetic]
The Work Foundation [less so]
Nunberg on Googlewashing [New York Times - free]

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