George mentions in the liberty of the networked.
“Society gave power to the individual, but also had absolute power over including or excluding the individual. Collective power was bought at the cost of individual rights and certainties. One of the most troubling aspects of the wired world, with its assault on privacy and its technologies of manipulation, may recreate and amplify this aspect of the world of the ancients.”
He raises the following questions: What will become of the individual? Collectives are great for many things. But any view of society that does not start with the individual is disconcerting.
In response to his questions, I would like to reflect on the different “forces”, especially the opposite voices amongst individuals within networks, and those between individual and network (or society) as Yin and Yang.
Yin and Yang
In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin yang ([yin – simplified Chinese: 阴; traditional Chinese: 陰; pinyin: yīn] [yang – simplified Chinese: 阳; traditional Chinese: 陽; pinyin: yáng] um yang in Korean; often referred to in the west as yin and yang) is used to describe how seemingly disjunct or opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn. The concept lies at the heart of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise,…. Many natural dualities – e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high – are cast in Chinese thought as yin yang.
The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the ‘shady place’ or ‘north slope’) is the dark area occluded by the mountain’s bulk, while yang (literally the ‘sunny place’ or ‘south slope’) is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed. Yin is usually characterized as slow, soft, insubstantial, diffuse, cold, wet, and tranquil. It is generally associated with the feminine, birth and generation, and with the night. Yang, by contrast, is characterized as hard, fast, solid, dry, focused, hot, and aggressive. It is associated with masculinity and daytime.
Yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, which constantly interact, never existing in absolute stasis.
So Yin/Yang reflects the female/male or night/day. We need both sides to make up the world, to achieve the harmony, and the ultimate peace. And wouldn’t life be evolving like that? Even if it’s a coin, it has two sides (at least), but if you take a serious look, there is a third side (the rim- the ring which consists of multiple sides). This represents the multiple perspectives of individuals and collectives. And these attitudes and perspectives are all coded and embedded in the individuals, within the networks, and within the society. And that may be how cultures of a community or society are developed.
Does it mean that an individual and its network are mutually dependent on each other just like the yin/yang or the 2 sides of a coin? Without the Yin (female) balancing the Yang (male), what would this world look like?
How would this Yin and Yang affect the liberty of an individual in a community or network? Sometimes, an individuals’ voice might be weakened by the network (the Voice of the Crowd), especially when there are misfit between individuals’ opinions from that of the network. The power of the network could be imposed on the individuals. Such conflict, if unresolved, will lead to individuals’ dissatisfaction on the network or participants of the networks. When there is an overpowering of the individuals such as basic rights from the society (or network), then the individuals would be resentful to its reign. History is the best teaching for us. How did revolutions arise? Why? How did people respond to the imposition of undemocratic rules and regulations?
So, it’s a natural phenomena – where an individual has to comply with the rules and regulations (the laws and legislations) set by society, which forms part of the basis of civilization. But without the individuals’ contribution to the network, how will a network or society grow? Some networks or society fail because of the domination of a few “strong voices” over the weak individuals, the power issue.
The Lord of the Ring – Return of the King exemplifies how the power of the dark force has turned the world upside down, with evils overruling the “Kingdom”, and where the Return of the King overturns the dark force and restore peace. This is also the case of Star Wars, where the two opposite forces (Yin and Yang) have their important “roles” to play in the world. Though these are fictitious stories, don’t they teach us very good lessons on the impact of power and forces over individuals in a society? And that there are always Yin and Yang evolving in our networks and society.
How would we interpret these in our networks? Which are the networks that could enable us to learn? Who decides on what to learn and how to learn in a network?
In reflection, I had shared learning with Catherine on Moodle Forum of CCK08 on various occasions. I think we had a fruitful conversation and discussion on the Network SARS example. I realised that SARS did represent one of the most life threatening virus network in recent decades. And she kept on reminding me on the danger of virus spreading. And I valued her comments and criticism.
In retrospect, without such a SARS virus attack, would we be aware of the need of community or network responses to any virus epidemic or pandemic? That was also a point that I would like to raise: any meme or virus could be spread without our awareness over the network. Sometimes, we may benefit from such a lesson, if we could learn from our mistakes. But at other times it may become a burden, and we might have lost control over the spread of virus. The result could be disastrous.
A balance between yin and yang is needed (just like the individual and the society/network). Individuals efforts are limited in solving systemic issues. One needs a collaborative network efforts to solve systemic or social problems. But we also need to nurture and empower the individuals to grow and develop in the network or society. That’s why education of individuals is important in any society. And we need to value both individuals’ and networks’ voices.
Do we need to balance the Yin and Yang in an network?