Archive for 30 July 2011

Paranoiac thought and ideological lifestyles – Are they inseparable?

A Facebook friend, Alun Parsons gave me a link to an article in the Guardian on ‘the logic of madness

The description of a ‘paranoiac‘ given in the article appears to be little different from how I see people who are members of ideological groups.

For instance die-hard socialists I know want nationalisation at any cost. I’ve asked some whether they would accept a compromise – that the state can fund capitalists can be allowed to go to a private physician of their choice, while socialists can be allowed to go to a state-provided energy firm of their choice. They are against the private sector so much that they’d give up the chance of a state option in home fuel that doesn’t exist at present.
I think the truth is that they know at the end of the day they would go to the cheapest energy provider as we all would, and they don’t want to have to make that choice.

Equally I’ve suggested to monarchists and republicans that we have a compromise. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are constituted as independent republics and are members of a British Confederation with the Queen merely a figurehead.
The die-hard Welsh nationalist republicans would rather Wales be part of England as it is now than have a compromise of the monarchy being kept.

So this article’s penultimate point of ‘Encountering someone who actually knows the answer to these questions will exert a gravitational effect‘ – appears to me to be true of most ideological people, who see arguing for their worldview more as a lifestyle choice than part of the political process of change and accommodation of others into our belief systems.

The Role of Communities in Energy Policy – Considering Treforest and Gilfach Goch

John Payne asked me my view on the Gilfach Goch Wind Farm issues.

My ultimate view is that decisions affecting communities should be made by those communities. In the case of housing developments for example, then people who seek to benefit from the development should also be involved in the decision.

Regarding which is the best solution to generate energy. In Pontypridd Kim Howells said he was a ‘Nuclear Man’ and Jane Davidson was a ‘Wind-turbine Baby’. I’m a scientist with a degree in economics. As a scientist I’m happy to admit I don’t know. As an economist I’d say let the people and the market decide. The people can decided what they want, then they can engage the private sector to deliver it. If the private sector’s tenders are too high, then the people know they have picked the wrong choice!

I was a member of the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment and IEEE Power and Energy Society for about 2 years. I looked at a lot of the evidence and can’t make my mind up, but observe the following:
1. There are safety and outlay issue with nuclear
2. There are aesthetic and maintenance issues with wind-turbines
3. There are economic issues with gas – should we prioritise it for home heating?
4. There are advantages to carbon capture coal, but limited eco-friendly open cast mining opportunities in Wales
5. There are big outlays with hydro, but this is Wales’s biggest resource after coal

My premise in deciding local energy production is in essence that a community would be more willing to have a wind farm or other form of supply if they profited from it rather than public subsidies going to support private ownership. My father was a working man, he managed to run a construction firm bring together people who could do things he couldn’t but knew were needed. If the people don’t know how to build windfarms then we can outsource that. But it should be for us to decide what happens in our communities.

You people in the communities of Llantwit Fardre and Pontypridd think eco-friendly energy production is important – Shouldn’t they be listened to?

Regarding the validity of public opposition to the wind farm in Gilfach Goch. What about the children in Treforest, who when asked what they wanted the future to be like, painted a picture of a wind turbine? Should young people, many who are environmentalists, not have a say? In the Emotivate Project I ran in my ward of Treforest, there was a proposal for a wind turbine in Treforest I voted in line with the young people, as being in my thirties I was the only one who could legitimately represent them to the council.

There is more on my thoughts on a public rather than politician directed planning system in Crocels’ Response to the UK Government’s Open Public Services White Paper under the section about Neighbourhood Communities.

RCT Lib Dems in Turmoil

I read the recent spat between Karen Roberts and her former colleagues in the Observer with concern. It seems that the Liberal Democrats and independents are in turmoil, not knowing whom to stab in the back next.

The Liberals, under the stewardship of Ms Roberts and her worrying existence of a colleague Councillor Mike Powell, have treated the people of Cilfynydd with such contempt. First they select a candidate who saw himself earning over

The ‘people sector’ is way forward

A CO-OPERATIVE Party councillor has told a conference that online communities should adopt, though their social contracts, the principles of co-operatives devised in 1995.

Jonathan Bishop, a town councillor from Treforest who spoke at the Transformations Conference, recommended this as part of the Co-operatives Fortnight Initiative. He encouraged delegates to support the campaign to reduce the gap between rich and poor, particularly with regard to computer and internet access, called the digital divide.

But Mr Bishop feels not everyone was as supportive of co-operatives during the Fortnight. During First Minister questions on July 5, Carwyn Jones said: “We know that the third sector performs a very useful role in Welsh society, but it is important to realise that the third sector is, by its nature, voluntary, and should not have to take on board responsibilities that previously were those of the state.”

Coun Bishop believes such a bias for “statism” where the public are denied autonomy and control is endemic in Wales.

<a href=”″> <img src=”!bn/13791-89104-31731-0?mpt=148876″ alt=”Click Here” border=”0″> </a>

He said: “Carwyn Jones completely misrepresents the way the people sector works by saying there are no paid jobs – this is the ‘red or dead’ attitude typical of Welsh Labour politicians.

“What he doesn’t tell you is that these attacks on the people sector are a smoke-screen for the fact that contracts are awarded to the private sector every day by the Welsh Government through their website called”

Coun Bishop now calls on civil servants made redundant to get in touch with the Wales Co-operative Centre at and bid for these “service level agreements” as part of new co-operatives to prove to Carwyn Jones that the people sector can do things better than the private and public sectors.

Making grading fairer and compulsary education more accessible

Old Labour generally dismisses using the market in education because everyone would want their child to go to the best school and not every school is a good school.

When the average person who is not familiar with choice-based education thinks of best schools they think of schools that give the best grades.

I therefore think the Welsh Government should level-up grades by splitting results into grade point averages and grades.

That is, each pupil taking a GCSE or A-Level will on their certificates be given an average mark (mine is around 70) and a grade (A*-G etc.).
While the GPA will be based on how well they actually did in the exam in terms of the marking criteria they grade would be based on where they are in relation to the other pupils in their school. So if the top 5% of pupils at a ‘bad’ school had GPAs of 60% and the top 5% at a ”good school had 80% then both would get A* grades.

Universities would be forced to base their assessment on the grades, while employers the GPA. This means the ‘top’ universities would be forced to take students from disadvantaged areas who otherwise wouldn’t get to university.

I went to a state funded private school, and while I got poor GCSEs (3 A’s* and 2 C’s in the resits years later) I have gone on to get 3 masters degrees, because the education at that school was tailored just to me and made me an independent learner. I soon caught up with others, but – I was in the Top 5% of Law Graduates at Glamorgan and only got a Merit. I should have got a Distinction in my opinion.

I’m not arguing that private is better than public. What I want the Welsh Government to do is give people choice. This can be done by stopping the partitioning of the education market through catchment areas and allowing parents to home educate their child with state-funded access to e-learning. I think I would have had even better outcomes if my parents had been allowed this choice. As I have said recently in letters to the papers; home education need not be isolated from society, as parents can tap into the sports lessons of other schools, and have RE on a Sunday at ‘Sunday School’ for instance, and special maths and English at Kumon, which could be in the day if allowed to expand and access the current monpolised compulsary education market.

Mum’s the WordPress: A Comparative Analysis of Political and Mommy Bloggers


Bishop, J. (2011). Mum’s the WordPress: A Comparative Analysis of Political and Mommy Bloggers. In Hamid R. Arabnia; Victor A. Clincy & Ashu M. G. Solo (Eds.) Proceedings of The 2011 Internet Conference on Internet Computing (ICOMP’2011). July 18-21, 2011. Las Vegas Nevada, USA.


This research paper presents findings into the differences between two types of popular bloggers: the political blogger and the mommy blogger. These terms are recent entries to the lexicon of online communities, but are soon becoming distinct concepts. This paper shows that mommy bloggers rarely discuss the issues mainly associated with political bloggers, although the reverse is not always true. While political bloggers talk about family issues, this often has little to do with calling for their rights, but echoing sentiments relating to the family life of political public figures.

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Mums the WordPress – A Comparative Analysis of Political and Mommy Bloggers


You can download this paper by using this link.


The New Field of Network Politics

Solo, A.M.G. & Bishop, J. (2011). The New Field of Network Politics. In: Proceedings of The 2011 International Conference on e-Learning, e-Business, Enterprise Information Systems, and e-Government (EEE’11). Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 18-20 July 2011.


This research paper defines a new field called network politics. Network politics refers to politics and networks. These networks include the Internet, private networks, cellular networks, telephone networks, radio networks, television networks, etc. Network politics includes the applications of networks to enable one or more individuals or organizations to engage in political communication. Furthermore, network politics includes political regulation of networks. Finally, network politics includes the accompanying issues that arise when networks are used for political communication or when there is political regulation of networks. The domain of network politics includes, but is not limited to, e-politics (social networking for driving revolutions and organizing protests, online petitions, political blogs and vlogs, whistleblower Web sites, online campaigning, e-participation, virtual town halls, e-voting, Internet freedom, access to information, net neutrality, etc.) and applications of other networks in politics (robocalling, text messaging, TV broadcasting, etc.). The definition of this field should significantly increase the pace of research and development in this important field.

View Online

The New Field of Network Politics


You could download this paper by using this link.

Jenny Gill – Disability: Compulsive Mal-Didactic Syndrome

If someone logs-on to an Internet forum and asks for advice what do you expect would happen? If you were as expert as Jenny Preece you’d know that people would relay personal experiences. But if instead your name was Jenny Gill you’d think that instead you must answer the question directly as asked and you would not be allowed to apply any reasoning techniques about what might lie behind the question you must answer it as literally as asked.

As Jenny works in administration at a social care organization you might not expect her to have the training that social workers and nurses have in order to look at the underlying issues, but to accuse others of asserting their experiences onto others by asserting her value system on to the person she is claiming shouldn’t be asserting is a bit hypocritical to say the least.

On the Mensa Forum recently, a schoolboy called Joshua asked for advice on what books he should read to get onto an astrophysics degree at a “Russell Group University”. My first suggestion was on a book about how to get through clearing! Even my sister, who got a degree with a first and a Phd from a Russell Group university had to go through clearing, but to Jenny this was dashing Josha’s hopes! Personally I like to deal with reality, and if one wants to get into the top universities one should expect a lot of others do also and it will be very competitive so it may not happen as you want. I can remember when first applying being disgusted that Cheltenham and Gloucester College turned me down! Are you kidding I thought at the time – their halls of residence didn’t even have mains sockets!

Jenny thought I was out of order for saying that Russell Group universities don’t usually mind what you have done or read before you get there as they will have their own way of doing things and you will have to accept it to get the best out of the education. But seeing as two of the people who currently work for me have either studied at or taught at Russell Group universities and both have told me this is the case, then who does Jennifer Gill think she is? She should stick to eating Yorkshire Puddings because it is better for her to feel full with those than be full of herself when she is so inaccurate. She should keep her Compulsive Mal-Didactic Syndrome (persistent moralistic unwelcomed interventions) to herself.


Rights and wrongs

Hugh Jones (Letters, July 5) demands the repeal of the Human Rights Act.

The only way to do this is to pass another Act of Parliament – something he said earlier this year he wanted less of (Letters, Feb 8).

In that earlier letter he complains that lawyers will always be gainfully employed, but I don’t see this as a problem, only the particular clientele they all too often represent.

Human Rights Law is a gold mine for lawyers, as those convicted of offences can readily access Legal Aid. Shouldn’t Mr Jones instead be arguing for ordinary folk to have this right as well?

When the Human Rights Act came in, few members of the public objected.

It was seen a panacea that would give us all the rights we felt denied. But it didn’t materialise.

If one was to read our “Convention rights” on the website we’d see that a lot of the injustices that many experience, from fathers being denied access to their children, or the idiocy of people likely to harm one’s children being allowed out of jail, could be put to an end.

If everyone had access to the same Legal Aid funds as those criminals milking the system then the Human Rights Act could achieve its original purpose – to restore our Common Law rights that Parliament took from us over the centuries.

Tranformations in Online Communities – From lurker to poster

Firstly, I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak today. This is my third time attending this series of conferences, and I am glad to be back.

Delegates may or may not know, but this week is part of Co-operatives Fortnight. If you take a look at this next slide, you’ll see the different types of values that all co-operatives must meet.

Many people think the terms ‘co-operative’ and a’ workers co-operative’ as the same thing. But so long as they meet these criteria any model of company can be a co-operative. So an online community could be a co-operative with only the need for a simple contract between members, providing they follow these principles.

One of these particularly relevant for an online community is ‘concern for community’. In such electronic environments people know as lurkers often don’t feel such concern.

When I say this word, ‘lurker’ to you, of what do you think?

Perhaps a dangerous being that stalks others, like this tiger in a painting by Rosa Bonheur in the 19th century?

Or maybe someone innocent and shy…

who is afraid to post a message because they fear what might happen, like this kitten in this early 20th century painting by Bessie Bamber …

The field of online communities is very interdisciplinary, like these conferences. In economics a lurker may be thought of as a free-rider – that is, people who have the benefits of a market economy but don’t contribute towards it. It may also include those who are economically inactive – that is, someone who is not producing any content.

In sociology they may be seen as peripheral participators – that is someone on the boundaries of the community who is looking for the opportunity to join.

In the political arena they could be those who are considered apathetic – in other words those who feel the system does not represent them so they feel no point in engaging with it.

They may also, in the field of education, be seen as someone who is disengaged with their learning environment. And in religion they could be seen as Agnostic – that is, someone who has not made their mind up and is waiting until the time they have.

But instead of trying to think what they are – let us think why they are.

According to Online Community expert, Jenny Preece, there are five main reasons why lurkers don’t post. These are that they don’t need to post, mainly because they think just reading and browsing is enough – like the free-riders in economics.

Another is that they need to find out more about the group before joining – like the peripheral participators in sociology.

Another is that they think they were being helpful by not posting, like the person disengaged in the classroom because everyone else is jumping in before them.

It may be that like the political ones they are too busy to get to know the system.

Or it could be that like the Agnostics they don’t like the group as it stands, as it may not be compatible with what they believe.

However, there is one group of people who Jenny Preece left out – those who are not online because of the digital divide. Unlike these other causes, which could be based on personal choice, those who are economically inactive may not even be able to get online.

This may be because of the wide gap between the rich and the poor. My co-operative social enterprise, Glamorgan Blended Learning Ltd, is trying to something about it. If you’d like to help I have petition cards from Co-operatives UK as part of Co-operatives Fortnight. They call on the government to narrow the gap between rich and poor through supporting co-operatives like ours.


But as you can see from this slide, in the current time there are a lot of opportunities for lurkers to become posters for good reasons.

Many people have heard of the public sphere. It is places like pubs and newspaper letters where we can say pretty much what we want providing we comply with the policies of the place where we wish to express it. On the Web these consist of comments to others blogs, replies to Tweets, and forum posts.

The term, ‘public square’, was only recently introduced by Internet researcher Don Tapscott. It refers to personal online communities, such as our Facebook profiles or blogs, where we make the rules. It can also mean any printed newsletter we create in the real-world, such as for a local club.

In essence, the public square refers to those websites where ordinary people have the editorial control usually found in mass media like televisions or newspapers. It comparison with the public sphere you can see that it means we not only control the content we provide, but what others do also. So the question is; how do we get lurkers to realise these benefits and become posters?

As you can see from this slide, I have devised a conceptual model called the Participation Continuum. One can use this model to determine where someone is in their participation within an online community.

On the left hand side, is a position called ‘Repression’, which is a person’s defence after experiencing ignorance. This is from where the lurkers start. Whether it is because they don’t want to be reciprocal or have fears about participating, they are preserving their status quo of non-participation.

The next step – suppression – is where the lurker goes when they have decided they want to participate but still have reservations, which is cause by temperance. After this they experience depression as a result of reticence, which means whether they do or don’t participate they feel they have made the wrong decision.

Some of us heard a lot yesterday about Nostalgia. This is something I am exploring in depth on my doctorate as it is a new addition to my psychological framework that I once thought complete.

Our Nostalgias, whether of a lover in our past, or a family member we can no longer be with, can either act as barriers to what we want. Freud called these ‘Phantasies’, spelt with a P-h rather than f.

We often try to deny the negative ones exist. This is done through a process called rationalisation, which takes us into the part of the continuum you can see called ‘Stagnation’. Far from the definition of rational we hear in economics as being something we do before an event, in this framework rationalising is something we do after the event, often to kid ourselves about what has really happened.

At this point we will be bouncing back and for between compression where our ideal doesn’t match the reality we perceive, and compression where it does.

The only way out of this dilemma cycle is to intellectualise a solution, so we return to the main continuum.

Once we are out of this, we can go on to experience rigidepression, so named after our biological ancestors who developed rigid brains for better decision making. It is at this stage that even though we have doubts we still participate. It is only when we experience deference that we participate without doubt. This stage is called empression, named after a female primate, as it was at this stage our ancient ancestors had little control over their actions.

This next model, called the Transitional Flow of Persuasion Model, depicts the stages necessary to transform a lurker into a poster with some precision.

You can see labelled ‘equ1’ that part called equilibrium 1. This is where the lurker is happy not participating with little involvement and high flow.

In order to break them out of this, there needs to be a disruption to this equilibrium. This could come from members who post something so abhorrent that the lurker feels so aggrieved that they want to post.

Depending on the strength of this force, which I call a ‘seduction mechanism’, they may be propelled through the participation continuum to equilibrium 2, or yes still need some persuasion.

If the latter is the case, then they need to firmly severe themselves from their beliefs before going on to the contrience stage. This could be finding those five reasons we identified earlier to be false, or not important enough for participation to be desirable.

This stage of contrience is the stage where they are in no-mans-land, where the only place to go is forward to enhancement or back to preservation.

If they decide to go forward, they jump to the new equilibrium, a process that is so great that it would take a seduction mechanism of the same strength in reverse to return to their original state of non-participation. This might take the form of posting a message in response to the one that made them want to post.

In order that lurkers be encouraged to post for reasons other than a dislike for what was posted there are a number of steps that can be taken.

The online community managers, also called systems operators (or sysops), need to be more proactive in their communities. More often than not, those people who set up forums are against censorship and believe people should be able to say whatever they want. However, all too often this means that lurkers are discouraged from posting because they are afraid they may be a target.

Another way is that there is greater involvement from the elders in an online community – that is, the people who have been there a long time but aren’t as active as they used be.

These people are well respected in the community, and if they were to put right those members known as Snerts, who are the members who post offensive messages, known as ‘flames’, then the lurkers who would otherwise not want to participate may do so.

Also, the regular members, who may be more interested in themselves than the newcomers, need to realise that by not involving the recently converted lurkers, those new members may return to being on the periphery or worse still, not be in the community at all.


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