Bert Olivier

Fiddling while Rome is burning …

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” — Karl Marx Both the intelligence and the ethical integrity of the human race are sadly lacking, as far as I can tell. Sure, there are many exceptions — millions, probably — but their numbers are vastly outweighed by…

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Panopticism, Facebook, the ‘information bomb’, and Wikileaks

In previous posts, I have argued that, at this stage, the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which Facebook has succeeded in exposing users to more (potential, if not probable) attention from companies marketing commodities or services than they probably anticipated, have no more than financial or economic objectives, but that the potential for extensive social…

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What is a liberal communist?

Like all oxymorons, the oxymoron (literally:”sharp-blunt”), “liberal communist”, seems to combine the impossible. And yet, as every lover knows, Shakespeare’s “sweet sorrow” of Romeo and Juliet’s parting is all too real. So, too, the fact that liberal communists, who ironically call themselves by that phrase, are an all too tangible part of our world. As…

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What the WikiLeaks affair tells us about communication

The world recently became even more complex. In days gone by, personal disgruntlement and consequent “disloyalty” on the part of diplomatic staff in possession of “sensitive” material (and therefore capable of, if not likely, to divulge this to adversaries), sometimes threatened relations between countries — that much has not changed. What has changed, however —…

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The language of globalisation

Japan is … well, different. Which does not say much, if one considers that the minutiae of experience make every day (even in familiar places) different from one day to the next. But the differences in Japan are palpable, albeit reminiscent of China, which I visited last year, in some ways. But only up to…

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Symptoms of the ‘post-political’

I recently attended two international conferences — one in Brisbane, Australia, on Stem (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in education, and the other in Osaka, Japan, called ACE, or the Asian Conference on Education in the Age of Globalisation. What interested me about these conferences was their focus on (mainly, but not only, tertiary) education,…

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The seductions of technology (2)

To grasp what Jean Baudrillard in his book Seduction (1990) understands by “seduction” where technology is concerned, one has to take note, first, of the way he displaces seduction: instead of employing it in a “lifeworld” sense, he transforms it into a metaphor which encompasses, not merely a psychological trait of lifeworld-communication, but the entire…

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West Side Story: Beauty and social change

I recently rediscovered, in DVD format, one of my favourite films of all time — a musical, as it happens, which won no less than 10 Academy Awards way back in 1961, including that for Best Picture. The movie in question is West Side Story, a 20th century version of the immortal story of Shakespeare’s…

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Zizek on ‘living in end times’

I have just started reading the prolific philosopher-psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Zizek’s latest book (as far as I know), temptingly titled Living in the End Times (Verso, 2010), and already I am excited. On the cover, Zizek is described (by New Republic) as “The most dangerous philosopher in the West”, and with good reason. Unlike those…

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The seductions of technology (1)

It has always been the case that technology is seductive — at least in the sense of persuading, without much effort, humans to yield to its power. And here power does not so much entail power over people, but also, especially, empowerment of people. In this sense technology is not simply a set of tools,…

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