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The Red Plug-In City

Plug-in City seems the right way to imagine how a large number of optional connections can be organised, randomised, mixed or matched.

So says the Communist University (CU) in its launch of its Plug-In City.

The CU is a blog, training workshop and more broadly an attempt by the “left” to use the internet to facilitate dissemination of information and dialogue, focused on South Africa.

Plug-In City provides a web page to link up with dialogue groups and distribution lists of left organisations. Plug-In City also provides a central space to manage subscriptions to these groups. That might not sound very Hype 2.0 Web 2.0 to the many internet pioneers, but this marks a significant change in how organisations described on the plug-in page use the internet. For me as someone subscribed to about all the services, it makes managing the information so much easier. Please subscribe, inform others.

Link to the page here.

And all this, based on an idea from architects working on a philosophy/project called Archigram. Read more here. The flyer announcing the launch of Plug-In City describes it as an attempt to provide not only an aggregation service, but also to stimulate dialogue. It motivates the concept of Plug-In City and what it offers as follows:

Now, you can go to our virtual Plug-in City of connections, and, using the “promo boxes” and other quick aids, you can join as many as you wish of 30 groups (the number is still increasing).

The freedom is two-way. Your membership is reversible. Unsubscribing from any of the groups is a simple matter. Help is available. Everything is free. You can try and keep what out you want and discard what you don’t want or can’t use.

Communists learning the art of marketing :)

Hopefully, it is a short left-step to get the distribution lists run by social movements outside the tripartite alliance on to the space page — literally on the same web page.

I have been registered with the Communist University distribution list since its inception. It provides a very different perspective from mainstream media, the occasional tiff and a reminder of application of Marxist classic to contemporary questions.

For a public policy researcher like myself, it offers a reminder that pragmatism is itself an ideological stance. I certainly do not agree with everything written by the CU, but that is precisely why it is so important.

It is, however, more important for the newsrooms across the country to subscribe, as there is a different story to tell. The plug-in centre might facilitate the telling of this story of working-class organisations, which is very neglected by the mainstream media.

(Imagines a flurry of activity across newsrooms announcing that “the Reds are plugged in”. Imagines an inspired editor tasking more than the solitary labour reporter to keep a track of this.)