DarkTheory

DarkTheory puts a theory (TheoryPattern?) in a form that allows increased power or profit for a group, organisation or individual. In history this was implemented by keeping knowledge secret, e. g. by priests. Nowadays ways are sought to put more and more knowledge in the status of “intellectual property” and make it a product that must be bought or licensed.

In the context of OpenTheory, DarkTheory is an AntiPattern.

Pattern Form

tbc

See Also

Discussion

My feeling is that this is most visible in an activist generation gap, and becomes even more visible when you interact with older (over 35) activists in a CommunityOnline (rather than a native OnlineCommunity.)

I go to activist gatherings, and the activist gatherings are based on the book, or some set of books, that are in high reputation amongst the crowd (they are the EmbodiedIdea.) Often times, there are different crowds roughly around different books. Seeing people who you hold in repute share book titles can easily be as important as the gathering itself!

And, when the activist community asks itself, “What’s our product?” …often times the result, of course, is: a book. And then come the training courses, and the certificates, and …

Dark Theory is as much a phenomenon of the non-Internet world, as it is a phenomenon of plain and simple greed.

I will admit that I may be treating older activists too harshly, by calling it “greed.” That said, there are many instances where it at least strongly appears to be greed.

The justification is: “We need money, from book sales, to maintain the institute, to spread the ideas.” Why not just lift copyright on the book? “Competing publishers (not us) will reap the benefits of spreading the word, after we foot the bill for it.”

Then there is a “Do you need to eat, or do you need to eat sushi?” question, tied to the “How much do we want to get this message out, vs. how much money should we make for performing this (noble) work?” Repeatedly asking this question may harm the psyche.

Our capitalist allocation system is really good at some things, but in some other things, it really shoots the messenger.

The older generation doesn’t quite get that many people effectively live online.

Many do not imagine that the online world will become even more accessible, more transparent. (Consider: PervasiveComputing.)

In fact, there’s even a blind spot there, enforced by their goals and ideology: Many are actively working against such a future scenario: They want people off of computers, and talking (and living in, and thinking about, and singing songs in, and crocheting in, and bicycling in,) the material world.

It is true that they have an influence over the future (that is: there is a basis for rejecting TechnologicalDeterminism.) Yet, I have difficulty seeing how exactly they are going to avert PervasiveComputing, the business plans for which are basically already drawn up, the market analysis completed, and the products in prototype and about to be rolled out. (I am speaking a bit metaphorically here; There is both truth and false-ness in that last sentence, that I can clarify as needed. What I mean is: It’s going to take an awefully big and far-reaching change in conciousness, within just 5-10 years, to change this.)

So, I have difficulty explaining to these people: “You don’t want to put these ideas down in books. You want to put these ideas down online. Further, you want to go beyond that, you even want to put the entire conversation leading up to the ideas down, online. And you shouldn’t charge anything for this.” There are some pretty major freak-outs here, at these suggestions.

It remains an on-going discussion.

Sigh, it seems to get more complicated. So to say: different “types of darkness”. Originally I saw only one, primarily to block the use by copyrighting parts of the specific theory or language. It’s enough to hype something e. g. as “alpha management” or “agile methods” and have these terms copyrighted, to create a gray zone where it is not clear what part of ideas is free and what is not.

Lion, I was positive about normal book copyright. Books are cheap, everyone can learn and teach from books, using fair citation and all that. But according to what you wrote about activists, obviously there is the other side of this coin. Books create reputation for ideas and for good ideas this is good. It was important that Ward wrote “The Wiki Way” and it was unimportant that it was a normal copyrighted book. Nobody gets rich from that. … But in a way, a book like Marx’s “the capital” is disastrous because such texts get the status of a holy scripture and then become dead ritual texts, people refer to … so they avoid to question the content and continue improving its theory and make it their own, change it according to lessons learned, and so on. There are no people that are more backward and less inclined to plan and unfold a future than Marxists, because they know that capitalism is all that’s wrong, they have all the answers and theories they feel to need, they just wait to be proven true by history. So this is a serious variation of DarkTheory.

Another one is the academic tendency to make theories complicated and to put that into the center of what students have to learn. Don’t know about the US, but in Austria students of the humanities are loaded with maths and statistics because for some reason this is used to make the difference between a good student and a bad student (or one who fails). So shifting the focus from the important simple things to unimportant complicated things seems another way to create DarkTheory. Knowledege then isn’t a tool to solve problems or create a better society, but a way to create a status or class difference, where its absolutely unimportant whether the piece of knowledge in question is relevant or not, true or not.

In the context of OpenTheory, I meant to talk about:

  • Groups that have a theory, a set of ideas about how things work, that they say it will be really positively super-good, for all of humanity to know,…
  • …and then they lock it up. You have to buy the book to know the shocking secrets!

That’s all I really intended to talk about.

At this point, the “theory” appears to be (basically) a simple scam.

Having looked at some of these theories, through secondhand sources, for some of these, I can confidently say, “Okay, I think this is a good idea. I think that this language, this idea, this framing, is a positive thing. I do indeed think that it has transformative power.”

But, oh, look, I can’t tell you about it.

If I would want DarkTheory to mean something, in the context of OpenTheory, it would be this.

Incidentally, we have “weeding out” classes in the US university system as well. There’s even a special codename for them, … I forget what it is, though.

Lion: That tendency seems to be true in France too; There’s a whole slice of “older generation” activists that’s hostile to the Internet, which brings them a fair share of criticism from netizens who otherwise share a lot of their ideas.

About the copyright aspect of it - I’ve long wished it was possible to donate towards having a book in the public domain, i.e. if enough people donate to a given public fund, the money is given to the author (or the publisher - let them sort it out) and the work goes into the public domain (or under a creative commons license or something like that). If you find that something is awesome enough that you think people shouldn’t have to pay for it, you can donate to that charity. They did something like that for Blender. Anyway, having copyright law integrate that kind of ideas, as long as the general principle that “more stuff in the public domain is better”, would be great.

This is drifting into two threads - one on copyright and one on “dead” unmodifyable texts. Both are heavily linked to the changes the Internet brings. In all cases, it seems that waiting for the people who do things the old way to die out will solve the problem - I can’t imagine a work being accepted as dogmatically as “Das Capital” nowdays …

… long wished it was possible to donate towards having a book in the public domain – excellent idea. It extends the idea of the street performer protocol to include books.

I have also wished for something very similar – I wished I could donate towards having the schematics and plans of “obsolete” electronic devices put in the public domain, such as the Psion PDAs.

Would it make sense to post a “pledge drive to make book (name of book here) public domain” on Fundable (or one of the other MicroFinance systems) ? Or would an entirely new system need to be developed?


Sometimes a person makes a document, intending that everyone who could possibly make use of that document should have free access, but that document ends up a locked secret. One way I’ve seen this happen:

The internet makes getting the latest version of a document ever so much quicker:

Isn’t the internet wonderful? :-). That’s about 3 more steps than are really necessary.

David: wow, that happened? that’s too bad.

Emile: Yeah, that’s a great idea.

Of course, it would be easier if the government fully adopted your idea and provided a standard process for determining who owns the copyright for any particular work, and how much that work is worth. For example, maybe everyone would have to keep a current address in a registry upon acquiring a copyright, and maybe each book could be bought for $10,000 after two years unless it could be proven by the copyright-holder that the book has already sold more than $10,000-worth, in which case it could be bought by paying the amount of revenue that it has already brought in.

More practically, if you have the drive to lead a movement to free a particular book, I agree that posting on Fundable or the like is a good way to start. But I think it would take some legwork. You gotta figure out who owns the copyright and then negotiate with them, and I would imagine these are both time-intensive things (unless you hire someone else to do all that, in which case it’s money-intensive).

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