29 December 2005

Information, Knowledge, Power and Trust

Jo-Jo, one of my commenters, asked, “Is information really power? I think people and corporations try to control information flows because they believe they gain leverage by knowing stuff other people don't know, but this argument doesn't scan for me. My own opinion is that one has more power when one is transparent and honest.

In 1959, Bertram Raven and John French proposed six bases of power, a model that Raven has updated and further differentiated. (French & Raven, 1959; Raven, 1992) In traditional, hierarchical organizations, power is typically aligned with status, so that one’s superior has the power of reward and coercion by virtue of his or her position – legitimate power. Particularly in organizations in which technical knowledge is valued, expertise is a basis of power, as is the control of information, as noted by Alberts and Hayes (2003). Conventionally, reward, coercion, and legitimate power are delegated by the organization. Expert and information power are generally assumed by an individual of their own accord. However, referent power differs from other forms, as it must be granted by subordinates to the person so empowered. It is therefore the most elusive of the six forms, both to initially acquire and to retain. It is born of respect, admiration, and role modeling (Raven, 1992), and perhaps most important, trust.

There is, of course, the old adage that “knowledge is power.” Some take this to mean that possessing knowledge is a path to power, and making a case for staying in school. Others interpret this cliché as meaning that knowledge is a scarce resource; he who has the knowledge has power over s/he who has not. In his landmark work, Discipline and Punish, French philosopher Michel Foucault makes the case that power is not something that one possesses, but is instead something that flows between one who exercises control and another who resists that control. Indeed, power and knowledge are intimately related in Foucault's construction of human relations. He considers power to be a flow that is created when control meets resistance in the “subjectification” of humankind. As Foucault relates history from the seventeenth century to contemporary times, the techniques of control have changed, from “discipline-blockade” to “discipline-mechanism” (1979) to “biopower” (1980). In each instance, the objective is the same: to change the human actor in such a way so as to ensure compliance and conformity with normative structures of behaviour in the context of geographically- and temporally-located social relations. Munro (2000) maintains that, at each age, new forms of power can be detected through the emergence of new forms of resistance. But what happens to power if the nature of resistance itself is turned on its head, a consequence of contemporary societal reversals effected by a communication revolution?

Both control and resistance presume the existence of a system or organization structure within which control/resistance operates and knowledge of the domain of control is revealed. With the “rise of the network society,” and the emergence of “network enterprises” (Castells, 1996), I argue that the traditional bounded domain of control/resistance ultimately breaks down. I suggest that the result of this morphological shift is potentially the emergence of a post-Foucauldian environment in which control dissipates and power paradoxically exists everywhere and nowhere.

Most of the above was from a recent, as-yet unpublished working paper called, “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Control, trust and the knowledge worker.” (If you’d like a copy, please email me.) I maintain that referent power is the only form of power that is appropriate for, and actually effective in, a UCaPP* world. Further (again from the working paper) power deciphered in a true network of relations founded on mutual trust is no longer in tension. Rather, it permeates the entire environment, paradoxically existing everywhere among all nodes, and nowhere as there is no domination differential among the nodes, and hence no Foucauldian power flow. In the absence of trust, there must be mechanisms of control within an organization or social system. With control, there is resistance, be it explicit or tacit. The tension between the two represents the flow of power, through which humans become subjects, and knowledge about the nature and conditions of that subjectification in the social context emerges. In the context of a network enterprise founded on a culture of trust, control dissipates, leaving power to become pervasively embodied in each “node” or individual. This, too, represents new knowledge about the nature and conditions of a new social context.
*UCaPP = Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate

ALBERTS, D.S. & HAYES, R.E. (2003). Power to the Edge: Command... control... in the information age. Command and Control Research Program, U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved from http://www.dodccrp.org/publications/pdf/Alberts_Power.pdf.
CASTELLS, M. (1996). The rise of the network society. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
FOUCAULT, M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.
FOUCAULT, M. (1980). The history of sexuality (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.
FRENCH, J.R.P., Jr. & RAVEN, B.H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (ed.) Studies in Social Power, (pp. 150-167). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.
MUNRO, I. (2000). Non-disciplinary power and the network society. Organization, 7(4), 679-695.
RAVEN, B.H. (1992). A power/interaction model of interpersonal influence: French and Raven thirty years later. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 7(2), 217-244.
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27 December 2005

Them's Firin' Words!

Among many other people, this teacher was fired from her position at DeVry "University" in Colorado, apparently for something she had put on her blog. I say apparently, because the DeVry administration chose not to tell her specifically what they found so offensive. Nor did they give her any warning, a chance to say goodbye to colleagues and students, nor an opportunity to defend herself. Apparently, there are no laws against wrongful dismissal in Colorado.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find this bozo, an executive of the Ontario wing of the federal Liberal Party, resigning over blatantly offensive postings on his blog about NDP Leader Jack Layton, his wife and NDP candidate Olivia Chow, and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. Mike Klander's offensive blog is now offline - a case of not only the horse having bolted, but the barn having been burned to the ground. Good thing the story broke on Boxing Day when no one was paying attention.

What do these stories have in common? They both are indicative of the monumental cluelessness of the Corporate Mindset (note the capitals) relative to the effect of blogs specifically, and the effects of a UCaPP* world in general. In a nutshell, blogs amplify voice, and provide a human face - and more often a composite of many human faces - to a soulless corporation. There are two complementary effects of these actions. First, a blog can speak directly to the corporation's constituency - what are conventionally called "stakeholders" but include others in the corporation's total environment. This direct voice helps to provide the type of transparency that is increasingly becoming an important attribute of organizations that people trust, with trust becoming an important factor in choice decisions. Second - and here's the reversal - employee's blogs can reveal the "black heart" of an organization, particularly if the organization chooses to respond in an aggressive fashion. Essentially, because of the phenomenon of emergent transparency, organizations will find it exceedingly difficult to hide behind obscurity and obfuscation - spin, appeals to "confidentiality," and stonewalling.

In the case of DeVry, potential teaching staff may think twice about contracting their services. Students may reconsider education decisions based on ethical reputation. In the case of the Liberal Party of Canada, voters may consider Klander's very unfortunate blog posts as indicative of the Liberal heart. The answer to both cases is NOT to control blogging, but rather to open it up. Allow your people to reveal who and what you really are - and if who and what you really are is embarrassing, perhaps you should reconsider your actions and activities.
*UCaPP = Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate
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24 December 2005

What a Strange Year

What a strange year it has been. If you believe in God – as in a God who sends messages, signs and harbingers in phenomena of nature – it would seem as if He is none too pleased with the goings on here in this corner of the universe. Beginning the year with tsunami floods, reprising those with hurricane floods, disastrous earthquakes that devastated some of the most poverty-stricken people on the planet, plagues of diseases that increasingly defy treatment, miscellaneous pestilence, famine, fiery heat in the summer... As I said, He is none too pleased.

If you do not believe in God, or if you believe in a God who adopts a more “hands-off” management policy (as it were) yet nonetheless allows humankind to make its own mistakes if we collectively choose to do so, all of the above must still give one pause. In the free will department, despite the fact that the total number of armed conflicts, as well as the total number of people who die at the hands of their fellow wo/man, have both declined, the most powerful nation on earth continues to behave like a good, old fashioned oligarchical, totalitarian state of the 20th century, both within its borders and around the world. As some commentators have noted, first went international treaties, then the Geneva Convention, and now the constitution. Imagine – a country at war with an elusive enemy, until the leader of that country says otherwise, with said leader effectively having almost total power. And only 21 years late.

Yet, I am an optimist. My optimism stems from a standpoint that some may describe as technological determinism, yet those who would do so do not understand the subtleties of Marshall McLuhan’s work, nor my own application of his insights. The electric age of the last century, whose pinnacle was exemplified by the dominance of the television screen, was not the completion of McLuhan’s vision that he shared in his work Understanding Media. McLuhan was not thinking of the television we know when he described his “tele-vision” (get it?). Our television enables a mind-numbing, intensely focused vision of the world that, in turn, creates an environment of which I lament. It is an environment in which the cult of celebrity permeates not only pop culture, but business, politics and policy. It is an environment in which an “I’m Okay Jack, and to Hell With You” attitude becomes a credo. It is a psycho-social environment that exists in almost perfect conflict with the biological environment that gives it life. Unlike Neil Postman, I do not believe we are “amusing ourselves to death.” Rather, it seems to me that many people’s awareness and ability to relate to one another in a way other than that modelled by television content is actively under attack, and in some has been completely destroyed.

My optimism originates in the environmental effects created by today’s dominant technologies of instantaneous, multi-way communication – the UCaPP (ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate) effects of which I often speak and write. A UCaPP environment affect not only those who are wired or “wirelessed,” but also those who are indirectly connected at a secondary or tertiary or even quaternary level. The technologically-enabled network of connections, interpersonal dynamics and relationships creates an active awareness of the total environmental effects in each of us, so long as we each are willing to become aware. The effects of this evolving and emergent awareness is already being felt in cultural aspects of many societies, observable through the resistant ripple effects occurring in the reflexive, characteristically 20th century reactions of corporate leaders and politicians. Over time, such awareness will begin to change the other structural foundations of our society: politics, business, education. But it will take time and yet several generations of people who have been socialized and acculturated into this new environment to overcome a century of old practices with new technology. I consider myself fortunate indeed to be alive at a time in which both old and new generations coexist, and I can observe the transition. Such is a rare occurrence in the course of human history. With awareness and conscious effort, the transition will occur in a way that we can collectively manage with deliberation and resolve. That, I think, should define our resolution for the coming year: To work together to create a world in which we will all want to live.

To all my readers, friends and those who will become readers and friends in the future, I wish a happy and joyous holiday season, and a healthy, prosperous new year. And to us all, I wish satisfaction, fulfilment, and most of all, peace.
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18 December 2005

Doonesbury on Evolution and Creationism

This one from Doonesbury had me chortling into my cornflakes!

This Doonesbury comic is a great example of what is called Menippean satire. For those who like a dose of academics with their humour, here's an excerpt from my essay, "The Fifth Law of Media" that explains such comic shenanigans in a larger context:

Today, comedian Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart demonstrates both the form and intent of Menippean satire. All of these writers share a common purpose. “Menippean satire mirrors a world that is in ceaseless motion and where nothing is certain… [I]ts authors’ intentions seem, in nearly every case, to demonstrate the disabling and limiting conditions under which the human intellect operates” (Blanchard, 1995, p. 11). Eric McLuhan is more specific about the role Menippean satire plays in creating awareness among an otherwise oblivious public.

As an active form, a Menippean satire goes to any extreme necessary in order to frustrate objectivity or detachment on the part of the reader. … Cynics, and Diogenes in particular … were often referred to as ‘laughing philosophers,’ for they refused to take seriously any political, private, social, intellectual, or other kind of pretentiousness” (McLuhan, 1997, p. 5).

Instead they create what Eric McLuhan calls the “cynic effect” – a satirical response that creates new awareness by awakening the dulled perception of the reader. Thus, Menippean satire is not merely humour or irony, but humour or irony with a specific intentionality.

It is, according to Northrop Frye, the intentionality that distinguishes satire from mere irony, that is a component of many humorous – and even tragic – forms. “Two things, then, are essential to satire; one is wit or humor founded on fantasy or a sense of the grotesque or absurd, the other is an object of attack” (Frye, 1957, p. 224). Irony itself is the “humor founded on … a sense of the grotesque or absurd,” as Frye describes. Irony is the delivery vehicle; it is the attack that transforms irony into satire. As Frye observes, “The chief distinction between irony and satire is that satire is militant irony” (p. 223).

Eric McLuhan points out that in each age of an advance in technology, the Menippeans are there to reveal “the readers’ ignorance of and assumptions about that culture, and on the technology of language as an up-to-date storehouse of the culture’s experience and perception” (McLuhan, 1997, p. 12). For example, he associates Rabelais with the printing press and Flaubert with the newspaper. Sterne’s Tristam Shandy and Swift’s Tale of a Tub satirize the five divisions of classical rhetoric as an attack on “the prevailing abuses of religion and of learning” (ibid.). He concludes that today,
a Cynic would promptly stand you on your head and force you to see your world aright; your ground, anew, and long enough for the fresh awareness to settle into habit. In so doing, the Cynic writers simply bring up-to-date centuries- or millennia-old techniques for reading the Book of the World (McLuhan, 1997, p. 13).
The specifically Menippean forms of satire are not merely reactions to the absurdity of the modern condition, but rather create the consciousness of that absurdity. It is the consciousness and intentionality that gives these forms of satire their force and effect to heighten awareness, particularly of the underlying context, or ground, of the situation.

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17 December 2005

The Latest from JibJab - Bush 2-0-5

Those guys at JibJab have come up with another great one! And a-one, and a-two...
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16 December 2005

Survivor Vancouver: a.k.a The Leaders' Debate

Here's the thing about so-called Reality TV: it's unscripted in the sense that writers don't provide the actual lines to the participants, but the characters all play to form, and the lines are all cliché. And that about sums up the first English-language leader's debate of the 2006 Canadian election.

Martin and Layton put on their best passion play, wearing their country on their respective sleeves. Martin's constant refrain was "the country is great, look at all we've done," while Layton responded with "the country is becoming great because of all we've done, send more NDPers to Ottawa." I guess he missed his wife over the last eighteen months. Duceppe, who was first to say that once something is decided by a free vote that should be the end of it (as in same-sex marriage), and the last to say that Québec should keep having referenda until the answer comes out "right." And Harper? He looked like someone slipped him a Valium before the debate, wearing a smug smile and telling Canadians to make a change, without asking too many questions about precisely what the changes Harper has in mind might really do to the country.

Although I very much liked the format - the stereotypical ordinary Canadians asking the tough questions with moderator Trina McQueen doing the follow-ups - any attempt at one leader attempting to hold another's feet to the fire was easily sloughed off, with very few exceptions. So it wasn't really a debate; more like "which policy line do I read in response to this question?"

I know someone will ask whether it was hot or cool (hot being higher definition, little participation, inducing a trance-like state; cool being less information, a greater need to fill-in-the-blanks, awakening awareness). Almost by definition, such an exercise as a leaders' debate cannot be a cool event, as the cool politician would almost invariably be accused of evading the issues. While the videotaped questions might appear to make it a cooler event, the reality of the matter is that the questions asked were selected from among 10,000 submitted; no surprises, nothing unexpected, no chance to be cool. And I guess that goes double for Harper. (Mock turtle-neck sweaters don't make you cool, Stephen.)

On a related matter, why was Giles Duceppe in the English-language debate, anyway? He has nothing useful to say to English-Canadian voters. (Don't get me wrong: the cultural concerns and equity concerns of Québec are legitimate and important components of the national discourse, but I, and most Canadians have no way to respond to Duceppe during an election.) Duceppe has no candidates running outside of Québec. His podium should better be relinquished to the Green Party, who DO have something potentially different to say to English Canada (as well as to Canada Français). And hearing something different might even be a welcome change.
Apology: As pointed out by one of the commenters, I completely forgot about the approximately 10% of Québecers for whom English is their first language, and who deserve to hear Duceppe in his second language.
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15 December 2005

Three Blind Mice...

...see how they run. I'm talking about Martin, Harper and Layton, of course. The blindness to which I refer is their collective ignoring of a large, nominally disaffected constituency who are relatively removed from the broadcast media (i.e., few-to-many media, including television and the press) in which the current election campaign is primarily being run. Among a very large demographic of people who don't watch television and don't read the mainstream press, relatively little of the major parties' respective political "messages" are getting through. And, for these people - largely voters up to the age of approximately 30, but definitely those between 18 and 25 - their lack of attendance on voting day is not so much a result of being apathetic, so much as a lack of connection with the process.

As an aside, I would say that a lack of connection with the process is a malady that affects many Canadians, irrespective of age. One major intended effect of broadcast politics as it is currently waged is precisely that: to disconnect people from active engagement with the demoncratic process, and instead, hypnotize them with slogans, quick fixes that are "good politics but bad policy" (a phrase that I've heard repeated after the daily partisan policy announcement), and attention focused on irrelevant "issues" rather than on thoughtful deliberation. (An example of this is the emphasis on change for the sake of change, with little thought given to the nature of the change, the effects of the change alternatives, and so forth.)

But all of that is not really the point of this post. None of the English Canada campaigns have an online presence with which people can truly engage. (The Bloc Québecois, to their credit for cluefulness, have a blog on which people can leave comments, including those that express dissenting views. Vive le Québec discours libre!) Those that have blogs use them as either comic relief, or as merely another broadcast medium. The lessons of the "Howard Dean Experience" concerning engagement are two-fold: First, by allowing comments, you encourage people to become engaged in conversations with the campaign, and coversations are the beginning of involvement and commitment. Second, by actively encouraging supporters to set up blogs (that is, by creating blogrolls on the campaign blog, by linking to entries in supporters' blogs - you know, all the regular bloggy stuff) you encourage those who have reach into communities that the main campaign cannot reach to "get out the vote" among those who wouldn't otherwise vote. That's why was saw the likes of "Punkers for Dean," "Bikers for Dean," "Grannies for Dean," and even "Born Again Christians for Dean."

Last night, I heard a piece on CBC Radio One's The World at Six in which a person, presumably in her twenties was interviewed at her business. She said that she doesn't watch TV, and were it not for "Moe," would not be interested in the election and would likely not vote. The reason: the mainstream parties are completely ignoring her. Moe, on the other hand, is representative of an incredibly influential political power. He has an email mailing list 5,000 strong, and he's not afraid to use it to influence otherwise unreached and unreachable potential voters. Most "Moes" around the country have blogs, connections, networks and, most important of all, credibility. While they cannot be co-opted by the major parties, they can become connected. All it takes is the major parties to realize that the Internet is not a broadcast medium, but a medium of connections, relationships, conversations and engagement. Sounds a whole lot like democratic processes to me.

If you find the insights of this post interesting, why don't you stop by the main blog page for more?

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13 December 2005

They'll Do It Every Time!

I remember this famous comic strip - They'll Do It Every Time - from when I was a kid. "They'll Do It Every Time, is a humorous look at human hypocrisy, inconsistencies or one of the quirky twists of fate that beleaguer us all. Originated in 1929 by Jimmy Hatlo, a sports cartoonist for The Call-Bulletin in San Francisco, the feature was created on the spur of the moment when a syndicated cartoon was lost in the mail. The cartoon soon attracted the attention of readers, who submitted their own examples of human foibles."

I was reminded of the strip today, when I read this piece about how
AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. are lobbying Capitol Hill for the right to create a two-tiered Internet, where the telecom carriers' own Internet services would be transmitted faster and more efficiently than those of their competitors. The proposal is certain to provoke a major fight with Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Time Warner Inc., and Microsoft Corp., the powerful owners of popular Internet sites. The companies fear such a move would give telecommunications companies too much control over a fast-growing part of the Internet.
While I don't blame these latter-day carpetbaggers for wanting to milk as much money from the Internet as possible - after all, once a monopolist always a monopolist. I do marvel, however, at the shortsightedness of greedy industry executives, be they from the telcos, the recording industry, software industry... you name it!

The traditional view is that a successful industry is built on the basis of investment, risk-taking, expertise and hard work. What has not been acknowledged until recently - and only in the context of FLOSS - is that successful industries are also a result of market participation among consumer-producers (by which I mean consumers who also produce the market itself; ideas, suggestions and techniques that are incorporated into offerings; actual content that enables the offering; social dynamics that create a desire/need and hence fuel the market's growth; among many other aspects). In fact, under UCaPP* conditions, traditional consumers reverse to producers, without whom there would have been no Google, no Yahoo, no browsers, no streaming video, no nothing that would have generated the type of demand that allows these telcos to make the types of profitable investments upon which they are now capitalizing. For them to turn around and effectively say, "let's eliminate the conditions that made us successful so that no one else can be" is the type of hypocrisy that makes me say...

They'll do it every time! (But only if we allow them to.)

*UCaPP = ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate

Update: BusinessWeek reports on this issue, and identify what's At Stake: The Net as We Know It:
But express lanes for certain bits could give network providers a chance to shunt other services into the slow lane, unless they pay up. A phone company could tell Google or another independent Web service that it must pay extra to ensure speedy, reliable service.

That could result in an Internet of haves, who can afford to pay the network operators more to ensure smooth service, and have-nots. Trouble is, those have-nots may include the Next Big Thing -- whether it be mom-and-pop podcasting or video blogging. The fewer innovative services on the Net, the less reason Web users have to want broadband. Both the network operators and the Internet could lose out in the end.

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12 December 2005

English Exams, the Medium, and the Message

It is end of term in high schools, and my daughter is once again preparing for that unique Foucauldian form of discipline known as exam time. As it turns out, the English exam will prove to be particularly problematic for her for a reason that is decidedly, if not ironically, McLuhanesque.

Unlike me, who graduated both high school and (undergrad) university before the advent of word processing, my daughter learned to compose text directly onto a computer. More than spell check, she has full access to a thesaurus - which she learned to use in the third grade - countless editing and revision opportunities, and a particular tactile relationship with the written word that is percussive in typing keyboarding, as opposed to legato in cursive script.

Unfortunately, the English exam is a hand-written essay. In her last test (that consisted of an essay question), she found herself unable to shepherd her thoughts to the paper, because of what she reported as a type of disconnection between her mind and the pen. Further, she spent too much time sans thesaurus trying to think of just the right word to express the nuance she wanted, and too much time revising the opening paragraph to get it just so. She ran out of time.

There is clearly a cognitive effect of composing on a computer keyboard that is different than composing with pen and paper. They are two different media, and we should expect there to be two different effects - two different messages. I notice this myself, using pen and paper for more "artistic" or "creative" aspects of my writing - outlining, constructing an argument - and keyboard for the actual production. Because I am aware of ground effects, I experience two different aspects of cognition when I use the two different media, and I use which ever medium is most appropriate for the specific cognitive effect I want to create in myself.

Now consider the exam. In addition to the student's command of the content to be tested as figure, the exam is also testing the student's facility with the (hidden) ground of the writing medium. Ironically, the student who has trained herself to do the things good writers do - select the right words to convey the right effects, revise and edit - is at a decided disadvantage in the exam. Teachers must become aware of all that is being tested, and decide if the exam as it is administered is truly an appropriate test.

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06 December 2005

Remembering Fourteen Young Women

Today, December 6, is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, commemorating the sixteenth anniversary of the massacre of fourteen young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. They were slaughtered only because of their gender, and the blind hate that possessed of one vicious man.

If violence against women was limited to one man, there would be no need for a national day of remembrance and action. But, tragically, throughout our world, and indeed throughout our nation, our province and our city, there remain thousands of women who survive in a daily existence shrouded by fear, and physical and psychological abuse. They are persecuted and punished for no other reason than who and what they are, and the deranged psychology that possesses their abusers. Sometimes, abusers hide behind the apparent legitimacy offered to their unacceptable behaviours by long standing traditions of non-Western cultures. In other cases, it is the result of an individual's own feelings of powerlessness or low self-esteem that causes him to lash out at a person perceived as weaker. Regardless of the reason or supposed justification, the tragic deaths of fourteen must serve as both a stunning reminder of, and a clarion call to action against, all forms of violence, dehumanizing behaviours, and unthinking degradation of women.

Today, Canada's flags fly at half-staff in honour of the fourteen. May the memory of these young women act as a beacon, guiding our society, and all societies, towards a more enlightened and just world in which all may be safe. May their memory be for a blessing:

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte

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05 December 2005

How Police States Begin

Given the tenor of our time, and the slow but steady encroachments on constitutional rights made in the name of security, this is disturbing news indeed. CBC reports (and where is the rest of the mainstream media on this one?) that
Police are conducting searches of houses and apartments in Parkdale as they try to identify a woman whose dismembered remains were found last month. ... Officers are going door to door in Parkdale, asking residents if they can look through their homes — and in some cases, their freezers — as they search for clues. Police point out that it's the same strategy that helped them identify the man now charged in the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Holly Jones in 2003. In that case, the man who was eventually charged with Holly's murder was one of just a few local residents who refused to let police search his home in a similar sweep.
Essentially what is happening is this: Police knock on your door and ask for your consent to search your premises without a warrant. If you refuse, that is if you exercise your constitutional rights, you will be considered a suspect, and clearly subject to more rigorous, onerous, and disruptive processes of investigation. Effectively, there is tacit coercion to abdicate your rights in the face of an implied threat of considerable future harassment. People "volunteer" because of the tacit, but clear consequences of not "volunteering."

Because of the implicit threat (not to mention the de facto intimidation of two large and armed policemen showing up unexpectedly at one's door), it can be argued that the so-called consent to enter is not given freely. I would guess that a good defense lawyer would be able to successfully argue that any fruits of such a search would be inadmissible as evidence, since consent was arguably not freely given (i.e. without coercion, and full understanding of consequences). Beside this, such actions promulgate the police state mentality of "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Among the principles of a democratic society is the rule of law, that is, no one is above the laws of the land. That especially includes those among the population who are given special permission to be armed in public, to effect arrests, and to inflict the weight of the judiciary on any individual. Bypassing due process of law in the name of expediency is the beginning of a long decline in the direction of fascism. Or, to paraphrase the cliché, if you have nothing to hide, you have EVERYTHING to fear if authorities nonetheless decide that you are hiding something. Just ask these people.

Update: The Toronto Star covers the story here.
"This type of investigation is problematic. We feel this is a significant intrusion," said Alexi Wood of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "Armed police officers are asking to be let into homes. We've had at least one call from a member very upset, feeling the police are being very intimidating with this type of activity."

Wood, of the civil liberties group, said she sees no problem with officers knocking on doors and talking to people about what happened to gather more information, but asking to look inside the home crosses the line. "Some people think if they don't let the police in, there could be consequences," Wood said. People can choose to exercise their right to refuse an officer entry, she said.

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02 December 2005

Role* Research - The Serious Stuff

Several people have recently asked me about the more, shall we say, theoretical work that underlies Role*. They are referring to my recently completed thesis. I have prepared a thesis synopsis [pdf] that summarizes in five pages what I took nearly 170 pages to derive. It includes the key elements from the literature, my derivation and situation of the particular aspects of the method, a description of the empirical research methodology, and a summary of the findings.

If, after reading the synopsis, you have a serious interest in the full work, please write to me describing your interest, and we'll see how I can help.

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