Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fifty-Five Yahoos with Shareware

Mark Bernstein of Eastgate systems closed out the conference with an evening presentation called "Unlinked and Entangled" about the authorities' failures at "recording everyday information" after the invasion of Iraq. Although as a producer of Tinderbox, which uses the model of the book but also that of the calendar and the ledger, he has an obvious commercial interest in electronic notebooks being used for collective record-keeping, Bernstein was remarkably agnostic, given the failures of "groupware coming from management" that had been observed in the field and the dismissive remarks of one officer about "fifty-five yahoos with shareware" as being the best that the Coalition Provisional Authority could produce. Bernstein also pointed out the was that looting targeted the information infrastructureof the country (the Ministry of Information, computers, archives, records offices, museums, etc.) because the native population could see it as valuable while the occupiers couldn't. He argued that the "information processing community" should share in some of the blame for the Iraq catastrophe.

The other part of his talk was perhaps more predictable, with oft-rehearsed observations about the role that the overly simplistic electronic slideshow program from Microsoft, PowerPoint, played in a "Beautiful Dream" about the country's future made up of "simple talking points and simple beliefs." For example, Bernstein showed a laughable flowchart that went direct to a "legal system" and "joint administration" and an embarrassing stick-figure presentation called "How to Win in Anbar" that showed a stick figure sheik saying "I own a construction company" in a speech balloon. Such presentations, Bernstein argues, infantalizes both "subjects" and "audiences." He also pointed out the propaganda value of the PowerPoint coming from the assumed enemy in the much disseminated "7 Duties of a Sniper."

He closed his talk by pointing out that all of the images and data had been supplied by social media sources that were free of proprietary copyrights. Perhaps now that the military is cracking down on the use of Web 2.0 by soldiers, such windows on the war will no longer be possible.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Dakota said...

Hi Liz,

Me again.

Like the last post, I found this thread in a search for info about the "Tactical Iraqi" game/training module.

I’ve got some questions/observations.

You wrote, “For example, Bernstein showed a laughable flowchart that went direct to a "legal system" and "joint administration"…”

This flowchart/PowerPoint is one that would really have been worth posting so we could have seen it.

Do you have a link or reference that you could post?

Also, "… and an embarrassing stick-figure presentation called "How to Win in Anbar" that showed a stick figure sheik saying "I own a construction company" in a speech balloon."

Embarrassing?

How so?

Because it wasn’t written in something fancy like Silverlight or Flash?

Because it didn’t have animation and realistic dialogue?

Embarrassing?

I really wish I could tell you how often and how much that PPT has circulated and recirculated within the mid and lower ranks of the officer and enlisted corps in the Army and Marines.

Just about anyone that is “in the fight” over there or has been has seen it.

You, Bernstein and his audience really need some context on the author of this document,Capt. Patriquin’s... and need to get a clue.

Others have wrote about him better than I could.

“Capt. Patriquin was a remarkable man, conversant in Pashtun, Dari, Arabic and Urdu. He was Special Ops trained and was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor device for his part in Op Anaconda in 2002, when he was attached to the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan.

In 2006 he was in Al Anbar Province in Iraq. In 2005, the top Marine intelligence officer in Al Anbar thought the province to be all but lost to the terror-insurgency.

Capt. Patriquin was one of those men with an affinity for understanding other cultures and seeing things from their point of view. He understood the dynamics of why Al Anbar was intractable.

He had made a PowerPoint presentation that has since widely used by the Army in Al Anbar. Most of us who have been in business for some years or decades understand the PowerPoint presentation to be something of a dumb-downed thing. It’s meant to be. Generally such presentation intends to highlight and drive home a few important points, facts or understandings.

Capt. Patriquin’s presentation is all at once funny, dumbed down so that a fourth grader or a “General in the 4th Infantry Division” could understand it and yet it made more tactical and strategic sense than we’ve heard from almost any politician for years.”

From: http://keohane.blogspot.com/2007/10/soldier-and-sheik-lest-we-forget.html

Better yet, read what some people who actually knew him and served with him said about him here: http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/12/great_in_the_wo.html

Give it a shot and surf thru those comments and look for the parts where people talk about the kind of guy he was.

You are a PhD, I’m sure you can be objective.

Can't you?

You go on to write that, “Such presentations, Bernstein argues, infantilizes both "subjects" and "audiences."”

Infantilizes?

As in, to treat or condescend to as if still a young child?

The only people Patriquin's powerpoint ”infantilizes” is the neocon whizkids in the Administration such as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bremer, Wolfowitz, etc, etc…

As far as infantilizing the subjects (Iraqis) and audience (fellow Soldiers and Marines)…

Come on.

You must be kidding me.

That is such a warped and incredibly skewed way of seeing that powerpoint presentation that it is not even close.

Bernsteins so far removed that he does not get it.

Look for the bigger picture here, would ya?

Capt. Patriquin’s (Capt Trav), the author of this slide was more than likely working on his personal laptop with the software at hand.

He was not some advertising maven with a huge budget and a team of graphic arts gurus working for him.

But he’s got real world experience, he speaks the local language, he is innovative (SF soldiers are) and he's got a grasp of the reality of the situation… an idea… a really simple, really workable, really really good idea.

And he wants to share that idea with his peers and get the word out.

What does he use?

He’s only one soldier with no graphic arts, multimedia or digital video skills, stuck in some remote FOB or Combat Outpost.

All he’s got is his one laptop that has the usual run of the mill preinstalled software on it.

How does he get the word out?

He uses what he’s familiar with, what he has handy and what he knows his audience has access to on their computers in theater and in the military in general.

MS PowerPoint.

So the guy drew stick figures with it… so what?

Does he spend hours or days trying to tweak and re-tweak the presentation to make it all slick and glossy and not cartoonish?

No.

He's got things to do like clean his weapons, check on the soldier that was wounded last night by small arms fire on patrol, take time to sit down with SPC Snuffy who got a Dear John letter from the girlfriend, figure out why the supplies they asked for three times in two weeks still haven't shown up yet, arrange a meeting with the local police chief to try to get the Iraqi Police to patrol properly, etc, etc...

Oh yea, and Capt Trav was killed not long after he made that PowerPoint and shared it with a couple of his peers.

It spread from there.

Explain to me why it would have been better for this guy to keep that idea in his head until he could have gotten the tools or skills to “present” it in a way that you and Bernstein found less “infantilizing”.

Please.

So the guy drew stick figures on powerpoint. It worked.

It got the message across to many people.

People who understand Iraq, Iraqis and the history of the politics of the region understand that it works far better than to keep trying to “stay the course”.

Certainly not people like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld...

But I bet Gates, Petraeus, Nagel, McMasters and the like have.

That PowerPoint may be crude but its very widely circulated.

Embarrassing?

How sad you folks seem to miss the entire point, the preceeding context and the implications of the ideas conveyed.

Anyway...

You go on with, “He also pointed out the propaganda value of the PowerPoint coming from the assumed enemy in the much disseminated "7 Duties of a Sniper."”

So what is the propaganda value of it that he pointed out?

I really wish you’d have posted some links or at least quoted his statements so we could read it ourselves.

My main complaint with that PowerPoint is that it does not provide citations and context.

I want to know what website it came from, I want to know the original URL, the capture date and to see the original page, or at the very least a PDF capture of it.

There are some free-lance people out there who are attempting to use their limited knowledge of Arabic along with assistance from “machine translation” (Google, etc) to try to pull out some meaning form some Arabic BBS’s and they are putting out really terrible products.

They miss out on a lot of the slang, shorthand and other jargon as well as dialect related context, etc…

Propaganda value?

Very very limited - nearly nonexistent.

You want propaganda value?

Watch the IED videos or better yet the Juba sniper videos.

There is some serious propaganda videos, especially if they could start getting quality English voice over in an American accent and get these things direct mailed to “security moms” before the elections.

Finally, “He closed his talk by pointing out that all of the images and data had been supplied by social media sources that were free of proprietary copyrights. Perhaps now that the military is cracking down on the use of Web 2.0 by soldiers, such windows on the war will no longer be possible.”

The military is primarily cracking down on blogging but they are only able to do that because the amount of content on the blogs provide the “context” needed to figure out what base a person is stationed at and what unit they are with. From that point its only a matter of monitoring the internet cafes on these bases.

Face it.

With how common and widespread digital cameras and camcorders are that cats out of the bag.

Indeed, I’d say that since the DOD “blog-ban” the amount of still images and videos posted online has actually went increased significantly.

Regards.

10:23 PM  

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