Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Going Old School: A Technoprogressive Re-Affirms Himself As A Progressive

As all my colleagues and a few of my readers know, I was previously involved in a futurist subculture that I increasingly became uncomfortable being identified with due to its following fundamental flaws:

1. An undercritical support for technology in general and fringe science in particular;
2. A distortive "us vs. them" tribe-like mentality and identity; and
3. A vulnerability to unrealistic utopian and dystopian "future hype".

I therefore recently renounced my adherence to this futurist ideology and movement to overcome both the cognitive dissonance and conflicts of interests that came along with my involvement.

However, in 2004, perhaps through a leap of consciousness or, more probably, due to our moving in the same circles, both rhetorician Dale Carrico and I had already seen the need for new language to make real progress in discussions of emerging technology.

We both began using the term "techno-progressive" to describe our stance of active support for the convergence of technological change and social change.

Techno-progressives such as us had and still have the audacity to assert that technological developments can be profoundly empowering and emancipatory when they are regulated by legitimate democratic and accountable authorities to ensure that their costs, risks and benefits are all fairly shared by the actual stakeholders to those developments.

However, as Carrico recently pointed out on his excellent blog Amor Mundi, it was only a question of time before a rogues gallery of techno-utopian futurists began co-opting the term "techno-progressive" in the service of their (desperately-needed) public relations efforts.

Since fighting to reclaim this term from this clique would be another one of those lost causes that does not contribute to technodevelopmental discourse and politics, I simply won't.

I'm far more concerned with a troubling fact reported by Drew Westen in his book The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation:
[A]ll good narratives. . . [are] easy to tell and retell. [They are] easy to write. Everyone knows exactly what someone who calls himself or herself a conservative purportedly values: military strength, tax cuts, minimal government, fiscal restraint, traditional values, patriotism, and religious faith. This clear message starts conservative candidates with 35 to 60 percent of the vote before opening their mouths, depending on the state or district.

It isn't easy to write a similar story of what it means to be a Democrat -- something very ominous for the Democratic Party. We don't even know what to **call** people on the left. Liberal has accreted the same kinds of connotations as Negro did in the 1960s, and progressive is probably the best alternative, but it sounds, well, retro.
So let's make progressivism hip. As a creative professional, I am aware of the power of the media to create great social change. My goal is to deliver compelling entertainment through films and documentaries that will inspire audiences to get involved in the issues that affect us all.

So if you want to collaborate, contact me and let's see if together we can broadcast a cool voice for the Next Left's struggle for technology and democracy.

1 comment:

De Thezier said...

I am posting here comments that one of my new friends, Shuvo Gosh, wrote me about this post:

Yes, drop the "techno." It is superfluous anyway: there could be technoprogressives, ecoprogressives, vegoprogressives or whatever. The common point is Progressive, and not in the way the radical right wants to define it, but truly forward thinking and new. Reclaiming the term, as it were. I like it. Definitely!