Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Viewpoint: Manuel Castells on the rise of alternative economic cultures

Manuel Castells speaking in Bergen in June, 2012Manuel Castells studies the links between the internet and protest movements

Prof Manuel Castells is regarded as one of the most-cited sociologists in the world. When most of us were still struggling to connect our modems in the 1990s, the Spanish academic was documenting the rise of the network society and studying the interaction between internet use, counter-culture, urban protest movements and personal identity.
Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason interviewed Prof Castells in front of an audience at The London School of Economics for BBC Radio 4's Analysis about his latest book Aftermath: The Cultures of the Economic Crisis.
Prof Castells suggests we may be about to see the emergence of a new kind of capitalism, with businesses growing out of the counter-cultures of the last 20 years. Here are some extracts from their conversation.

The rise of new economic cultures

"When I mention this alternative economic culture, it's a combination of two things.
"A number of people have been doing this for quite a while already because they don't agree with the meaninglessness of their lives. Now there is something else - it's the legion of consumers who cannot consume.
"And, therefore, since they do not consume - they don't have the money, they don't have the credit, they don't have anything - then they try at least to make sense of their lives doing something different.
"So, it's because of needs and because of values - the two things together - that's why it's expanding."
Paul Mason: You write that economies are cultural - can you expand on that?
"If we want to work to make money, to consume, it's because we believe that by buying a new car or by buying a new television or a bigger flat, we are going to be happier. This is a particular form of culture.
"On the contrary... people are reversing the notion: what is important in their life cannot be bought, in most cases. But they don't have the choice anymore because they are already trapped in a machine.
"What happens when the machine is not working anymore? People say, 'well I am really stupid. I am running all the time for nonsense'."
Paul Mason: How big is this culture change?
"It is fundamental because it triggers a crisis of trust in the two big powers of our world: the political system and the financial system.
People don't trust where they put their money and they don't trust those who they delegate in terms of their vote.
"It's a dramatic crisis of trust and if there is no trust, there is no society.
"What we are not going to see is the economic collapse per se because societies cannot work in a social vacuum. If the economic institutions don't work, if the financial institutions don't work, the power relations that exist in society change the financial system in ways favoured to the financial system and it doesn't collapse. People collapse, not the financial system.

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During the crisis one third of Barcelona families lent money, without interest, to people who are not in their family”
Prof Manuel Castells

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People are reversing the notion: what is important in their life cannot be bought, in most cases”
Prof Manuel Castells
"The notion is the banks are going to be alright, we are not going to be alright. So there is a cultural change. A big one. Total distrust in the institutions of finance and politics.
"Some people start already living differently as they can - some because they want alternative ways of life, others because they don't have any other choice.
"What I refer to is about the observation of one of my latest studies on people who have decided not to wait for the revolution - to start living differently - meaning the expansion of what I call in a technical term 'non-capitalist practices'.
"They are economic practices but they don't have a for-profit motivation - such as barter networks; such as social currencies; co-operatives; self-management; agricultural networks; helping each other simply in terms of wanting to be together; networks of providing services for free to others in the expectation that someone will also provide to you. All this exists and it's expanding throughout the world."
Paul Mason: 97% of people you surveyed [in Catalonia] have engaged in non-capitalist economic activity.
"Well, it's about 30-40,000 who are engaged quite fully in alternative forms of life. And I differentiate between people who consciously organise their lives around alternative values, with people who live normal lives but at the same time they look in many, many aspects to live differently.
"For instance, during the crisis, one third of Barcelona families lent money, without interest, to people who are not in their family."

What is the Network Society?

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All the studies on the internet show that people who are more social on the internet are also more social face-to-face”
Prof Manuel Castells
"It's a society where the main activities in which people are engaged are organised fundamentally in networks, rather than in vertical organisations.
"The difference is very simple - network technologies. It's not the same thing to be constantly interactive at the speed of light than just simply have a network of friends and people.
"So all networks exist, but the connection between everything and everything - be it financial markets, politics, culture, media, communications, etc - that's new because of the new digital technologies."
Paul Mason: So we live in a network society. Could we reverse out of a network society?
"Can we reverse to a pre-electricity world? It's the same thing. No we can't.
"Although many people now are saying 'well why we don't start all over again?' It's a huge movement called the de-growth movement. Some people would try to go to different forms of communal organisation, etc. 
"However, the interesting thing is for the people to organise and debate and mobilise for de-growth and communalism, they have to use the internet.
"We live in a culture of not virtual reality, but real virtuality because our virtuality - meaning the internet networks - are a fundamental part of our reality.
"All the studies on the internet show that people who are more social on the internet are also more social face-to-face."
Paul Mason: You have these diverse groups, they protest against subject A today, and subject B tomorrow, and they play World of Warcraft at night - but they're not going to achieve what Castro and Guevara achieved, are they?
"The impact on the political institutions is almost negligible because the political institutions are impervious to change. But if you look at what's happening in terms of the consciousness... you have things like the huge debate of social inequality that didn't exist three years ago.

"In terms of demonstrating, the system is much stronger than the embryos of the movement... you reach the minds of the people through a process of communication, and this process of communication is today fundamentally through the internet and debating.
"It's a long process from the minds of the people to the institutions of society. Let's take an historical example: toward the end of the 19th Century in Europe, there were basically the Conservatives and the Liberals, right and left.
"But then something happened - industrialisation, working class movements, new ideologies and new movements started. All this was not in the political system. It took 20 to 30 years, then you have the socialists and then the split from the socialists... and the liberals disappear basically.
"It will change politics, but not through organised forms of politics in the same way. Why? Because networks are different and networks don't need hierarchical organisations."

Where will it end?

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With this climate what happens is that more and more our societies will become ungovernable and, therefore, we can have all kinds of phenomenon - some of them very dangerous”
Prof Manuel Castells
"All this together is not going to be a great electoral coalition, is not going to be any new party, any new anything. It's simply society against the state and against the financial institutions - not against capitalism, by the way - against financial institutions, which is different.
"With this climate what happens is that more and more our societies will become ungovernable and, therefore, we can have all kinds of phenomenon - some of them very dangerous.
"Of course we'll see many expressions of alternative forms of politics which will escape the mainstream traditional political institutions, and some of them, of course, going back and trying to have a nationalistic, primitive community to attack everybody and to ultimately build a commune cut off from the world and oppress their own people.
"But what happens in any process of disorganised, chaotic social change, there are all these phenomena co-existing and the way they play out, one against the other, will depend ultimately if the political institutions open up enough channels of participation for the energy that exists in society for change that could overcome the resistance of the dark forces that exist in all societies."
Paul Mason interviewed Prof Manuel Castells for BBC Radio 4'sAnalysis. You can hear the full interview via the Radio 4 websiteor via the Analysis download.

Related Posts:

My notes: 

- As a supporter of sustainable development, I always had the negative opinion on the growth based economic baloon, which only help to increase the salaries of the CEOs. 

- This interview is done in the world No.1 school of creating such CEOs. It is a very good beginning. I wish all the business schools in the world take note of this interview and spread the positive message across the past, present and future MBA graduates! Simply from this move alone we can expect great results towards a sustainable world.

- World should consider the positive aspects of Islamic finance system while searching for an alternative system.  Islamic finance is based on values, on actual transaction or partnership based investments- no games. Islamic finance is simple but very powerfull. The world has a lot to benefit out of Islamic finance system. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chinese couple's frugal lifestyle triggers debate

Beijing, Oct 17 (IANS) A couple who spend a little over 10 percent of their monthly wage have become a hot topic among young Chinese netizens.
In an online post, Guo Hao said he and his wife, both in their 20s save the majority of their income, reported Xinhua.
"My wife and I earn 9,000 yuan ($1,428) a month together. We only spend 1,000 yuan monthly and save about 90,000 yuan in a year," wrote Guo, who lives in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu province.
The post drew a huge response among netizens and they asked how he managed it. Guo published a detailed report of his family expenses to show how it was done.
Guo, a state-owned enterprise employee, and his wife, a nurse, have lunch provided by their employers, buy discounted food when the supermarkets are about to close and go to their parents at weekends.
They have bought a small apartment with a loan that can be covered by their housing provident fund. They live near work, which saves on transport costs, and buy clothes from street vendors and online shops.
The Chinese are known for their preference for saving rather than spending. However, driven by soaring rents and other living expenses, many young city-dwellers in China find it hard to save money.
A nickname "Moonlight Tribe" has been created for such people whose pockets are empty at the end of every month. The shortening of "empty pockets every month" bears the same pronunciation as moonlight in Chinese.
Guo's saving strategy has been the source for discussion. At Sina Weibo alone there are more than 480,000 entries about this topic.
Although many appreciated their lifestyle and have tried to use their ideas, some argued that their strategy is too extreme and at the cost of quality of life.
"What's the point of making money, if you cannot enjoy a better life?" wrote a netizen named BeipiaoEzu in a microblog. "It is so exhausting to plan every expense meticulously just to save some money."
Xu Bin, 30, working at a state-owned enterprise in Beijing, told Xinhua that he spends about half of his 10,000-yuan monthly salary in sponsoring three horses and goes riding almost every weekend.
Although his hobby leaves him short of money and makes him a member of the "Moonlight Tribe", Xu does not plan to change.
"I am living a life I enjoy and don't want to sacrifice what I like for a number in a bank account," he said.
Others also question whether it is appropriate to rely on parents as Guo and his wife do.
"Dinners at the parents' house every weekend?" remarked micro-blogger Heideshanliang.
"It is a bit shameful for adults, who are supposed to support their parents, to still depend on them financially."
However, Guo's story has inspired many young people, including Wei Yuan, a secretary at a private firm.
Wei is proud of telling people how little her clothes cost.
She buys them from group-purchasing websites and in the off season. She bought a coat, originally priced at 1,599 yuan, for 289 yuan.
Group purchasing websites, similar to in the West, are very popular in China.
"Good group-purchasing websites are cheaper and more credible than shops on Taobao (an e-Bay like online shopping platform)," said Wei who frequents the websites selling clothes of famous brands with discounts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The BIM (Building Information Modelling) Summit, Qatar

I attended "The BIM (Building Information Modelling) Summit" held at Oryx Rotana on 24th & 25th Sep.2012.

I am fully convinced, after the summit, that BIM is going to spread wide across the construction industry and in the near future BIM is going to almost replace 2D autocad drawings. 

All engineering institutions including the ITIs and ITCs in India should shift the focus immediately to BIM. Those who jump first will have great advantage over other institutions.

It is high time to consider BIM seriously for all the professionals in the construction industry, like:
- Architects
- Design Engineers
- Detailing Engineers
- Autocad draftsmen
- Quantity Surveyors
- Planners
- 3D presentation professionals

BIM is the tool for the new generation professionals. Yes, the future is not only BIM but also BIMM (Building Information Modelling and Management).

Here are some highlights from the summit.

Quotes from the Summit:

·         BIM is going to change the way we do business, in the near future.
·         BIM is a Process: Flow of information that will actually change the way we do business mentioned the Autodesk Vice President in his presentation.
·         BIM is not an extension of CAD.
·         The company risk profile will change marginally in a BIM environment.
·         Great cost saving can be achieved by all members of the supply chain working collaboratively on a BIM model.
·         BIM objects will replace product catalogues in the near future.
·         BIM can perform about forty various activities in the whole life cycle of building / facility.
·         Construction industry is the last to move to information technology.
·         By 2013 Building Smart intends to set BIM standards.
·         As we move to BIM environment more and more Clients shall demand “Design to maintain” approach from Designers and D&B Contractors.
·         It is very important to have a smart “BIM execution plan” in place based on the set objectives.
·         3D for design and 3D for construction are different.
·         Contractors should be prepared for contracts in BIM environment.
BIM: How they are using it today?

·         In the summit, we could observe a collaborative approach from all the players in the industry. These coordinated efforts are expected to produce tangible results for BIM in the middle-east construction market.
·         Different nations have set different objectives for implementing BIM.
o   Australia is targeting to make a national saving of USD 5 Billion by implementing BIM
o   In UK all projects above 50M pounds should use BIM.
o   UK government has set a mandate for all contractors to move completely to BIM by 2016.
o   UK government plans a reduction in 20% embedded carbon and cost. BIM shall greatly support this initiative.
o   Singapore government has an ultimate aim of issuing building permits based on BIM model.
·         Various Companies use BIM for various purposes:
o   Asset management
o   4D Construction management (SYNCHRO is an excellent BIM tool for CM)
o   Tender stage study / presentations
o   Facilities management (CoBie: Construction operation Building information exchange)
o   Clash detection
o   Fabrication drawings (Like TEKLA for steel structures and Pre-cast concrete)
o   Reduce risks
o   Project design
Case Studies:

There were many case studies of successful BIM implementation, presented in the summit.
For example:
·         SKANSKA is applying BIM (someway or other) in almost all their projects.
·         SKANSKA is making use of BIM to enhance lean operation based on Pre-fabrication
·         London Victoria underground station (The BIM team has used Laser scan technology to survey the existing U/G station and its utilities before moving it to BIM model). Mott MacDonald was the designer in this project.
·         20 Fenchurch Street Project
·         HBK Holding Company is applying BIM at tender stage for the last two years.
·         EVERSINDAI is applying BIM for steel fabrication for the last seven years or more.
·         Qatar National Museum is applying BIM in a much advanced manner. (The BIM consultant in this prestigious project is Gehry Technologies INC with 15 full time BIM experts at site)
·         USC College of Cinematic studies ( A saving of 6M USD from budget; Completion before schedule -4 Months)
·         KAROLISKA hospital is the largest BIM project in Europe.
·         Cannistraro: A MEP contractor in US who has implemented BIM successfully.
·         4657 Hector Industrial city in KSA (Dar Al Riyadh)
·         500 000 housing units in KSA (Dar Al Riyadh)

·         Productivity and efficiency
·         Sustainable design (Use of Dynamic Thermal Modeling for energy efficient design)
·         Project delivery integration
·         A collaborative BIM, where all the stake holders share the information, is expected to bring great savings to the construction industry.
·         “You cannot plan what you don’t know. This is the main reason for change orders in projects” said Mr. TOM Dengenis from M/s. SYNCHRO.
·         Look at the below statistics presented in the summit.
Variation Orders
2D Platform
18 %
Lonely BIM Platform
Collaborative BIM Platform
2.68! (Almost 15% less than 2D!)

Future Challenges:

·         Public and Private owners have a great role in enforcing BIM. They are the biggest beneficiaries by implementing BIM.
·         National BIM standard will promote collaborative BIM. All concerned parties shall work together to set national / industry standards.
·         Reference standards, Information exchange standards and Guidelines & references shall be established.
·         The need to increase hardware capacity. One of the company mentioned they are using 24 GB workstations and they are quite happy about the performance.
·         Delivery of the relevant information is one of the greatest challenge: 
o   Information about performance of BIM elements
o   Third party approval (Like UL Listing)
o   Ability to select BIM elements within the cost budget
Meeting with Auto-desk Vice President

·         There was a separate session to meet the Vice President of Autodesk. This session was attended by special  invitees only.
·         The country manager of Autodesk were also present in this session.
·         Mr. Phil attended the questions from the audience on Autodesk philosophy and strategy towards BIM.
Further information on BIM: (Annual report of National Institute of Building Science)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Talent Teens Jeddah: Reality Talent Hunt - Grand Finale

Yesterday (12th October 2012) Talent Teens Jeddah organized the  Reality Talent Hunt - Grand Finale (Speech Event).

There were two topics for the speech. Participants were supposed to prepare for both speeches.

Topic -1: Problems faced by expatriate students and the solutions
Topic -2: My suggestions to make India the best country in the world

I thought is is interesting to share the texts of some of the speeches here.

Problems faced by expatriate students and the solutions
First Best Speaker : Miss. Hanna Shirin - IISJ.

A great day indeed! A day in which we the expatriate students decided to boldly discuss about ourselves. A day in which we are seeking solutions to the problems faced by the expatriate students.

Respected Judges, Talent Teens officials, parents and my dear friends. Assalamu Alaikum and good afternoon to one and all.

The problems faced by expatriate students are fundamental, multifaceted and intricate. Who are expatriate students?
-       A student community who are disconnected from their roots and stuck to the limitations of nuclear families.
-       A student community who are less exposed to the hard challenges of life
-       A student community who are unfamiliar with the culture and the political fabric of their homeland.
We are the citizens of a great democratic country with a lot of social diversity. To be successful, political, cultural and social awareness are of supreme importance for a student.

Unfortunately, for an expatriate student training fields for political awareness are totally unavailable. In the absence of a community living, functions which broom cultural and social awareness are seldom among expatriate students. Opportunities to acquire life skills through field trips and trainings are very limited. On the extreme side some of the expatriate students are totally ignorant about the disciplinary practices to be followed in various occasions like marriage, receptions and even funerals.

Compared to the students in India, an expatriate student has fewer choices for quality education, sports, games, arts and cultural activities. This situation makes it very difficult for an expatriate student to face competitive examinations and other hard challenges of life when he finally settles back home.
These are some of the fundamental problems faced by expatriate students. Other commonly discussed problems are jam packed classes in embassy school, Non availability of excellent teachers, Lack of public transport system, restrictions in movement, lack of reading, lack of exercise, unhealthy food habits and obesity. Such problem can be solved with constant struggle and representation in front of the authorities here and the governments back in India. 

Let me move on to suggest some tangible solutions to the fundamental problems I have mentioned.

You all know what is IQ, which stands for Intelligence quotient. But how many of you are fully aware EQ, which stands for Emotional intelligence Quotient?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Successful people have a higher EQ than common public. I strongly believe that the solution for the problems of expat student lies in creating an environment to develop their Emotional Intelligence. In that respect this exclusive program conducted by talent teens itself is a part of the solution.
Let us have more of such organizations, more such programs among expat students. Let us pledge to work together for increasing such awareness among expat students.
Now that we have seen, we have heard, we have understood our problems. Our challenges are more complicated because we are like trying to learn swimming without a swimming pool.

To solve our problems we must be the players in the field instead of remaining as spectators in the gallery. If you are on it, I have full confidence that the future of expatriate students shall be brighter.

So, friends, allow me to conclude with the words of the great author Mark Twain,
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Thank you J

My suggestions to make India the best country in the world
First Best Speaker : Miss. Zahra Fathima - IISJ.

What if I told you our country has been facing this challenging problem for a long time? Bigger than budget deficit, or poverty or illiteracy. A problem that had never been discussed in the parliament or by the media. What if I told you this problem is right in front of us and that you all have the solution to it?
What if I told you the biggest problem our country faces is – YOU and ME. OUR perspective.

 Officially, known as the Republic of India, a country in South Asia. The 7th largest country in terms of area, the 2nd most populous country in the World and world’s largest democracy. Rich in cultural and linguistic diversity.
That’s what India is to Wikipedia.
With a population of over 1.2 billion people, India is overpopulated, continues to face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, inadequate healthcare, and malnutrition and corruption.
That’s what India is to the world.
But what does your country mean to YOU?
I quote Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the “missile man” of our country, and our former president.
“YOU say that our govt. is inefficient. YOU say that our laws are too old. YOU say that municipality does not pick up the garbage. YOU say that the phones don’t work, the railways are a joke, the airline is the worst in the world, and the mail never reaches their destination. YOU say, say and say.
But what do YOU do about it?
Take a person on his way to Singapore. YOU. YOU walk out of their airport and you’re dressed at your international best. YOU walk back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you’ve overstayed at a restaurant or shopping mall irrespective of your status identity. In Singapore, YOU don’t throw cigarettes on the road or eat in the stores. In Singapore, you don’t say anything, do YOU? YOU wouldn’t dare to eat in the public in Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU wouldn’t dare go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU wouldn’t dare speed beyond 55 mph in Washington and then ask the police, “do you know who I am? I’m so and so’s son” YOU wouldn’t throw an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage bins in the beaches of Australia or New Zealand.
Why don’t YOU spit paan on the streets of Tokyo? Why don’t YOU buy fake certificates in Boston? We’re still talking of the same you! YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries, but cannot in your own. YOU who will throw papers and cigarettes the moment you touch Indian ground. “
Like I said, it’s our perception that’s causing a standstill to India’s progress and is the one that needs a solution. I’m not here to point out our flaws and be harsh but quite the contrary. To stop for a moment and think.
India may have major power cuts about every now and then. It may have strikes, and riots. But we’re going to look at the bright side.
Like Gandhiji once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”
So what I’m saying is, unless we change our mind, our country isn’t gonna change. It isn’t gonna move forward. This isn’t an issue that’s gonna spark debates in the parliament or by the media. It’s a small matter we overlook. But our goal shouldn’t be to make one difference. But millions of small ones. You want to see a change? Be the change.
Jai Hind.

My suggestions to make India the best country in the world
Miss. Hanna Shirin - IISJ

Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world. America is the most industrialized country with the highest GDP in the world. China is the biggest emerging economy in the world.

Assalaamu alaikum Respected Judges, today I am standing before you to speak on the topic “How to make India the best country in the world?”
Answer to this question lies, I believe, in clearly understanding our strength and available resources.

In 1973 Indian economy was 45% from primary sector, 35% from secondary sector and 20% from tertiary or service sector. 30 years later in 2003 the service sector jumped from 20% to more than 50%, while primary sector were reduced from 45% to less than 25%. This was the result of developing India's biggest resource, the human resource capital, in to diverse sectors including the dollar earning service industry of this century, the Information Technology sector. Today India is considered the second largest emerging economy behind china. The prediction is that 30 years from now India will be stronger than America, the biggest economy in the world today.

In my opinion to be the best country in the world, our India has a long way to go. We have to work for

-       An India where there is no corruption
-       An India where there is no poverty
-       An India where people are not deprived of their rights due to their gender, cast or religion.
-       An India where we are self reliant on food and agriculture.
-       An India where we have the best in class technology.
-       An India where all its citizens are literate and responsible.

Unity in diversity is our strength. When prosperity, security and real "freedom or swaraj" reaches to all the people with irrespective of their casts, language or religion India will be counted as one of the best countries in the world for sure.

Today India is opening its market to multinational corporations. The leaders are chasing foreign investments. In my humble opinion what India need is job creating investments not merely money making investments.

We should make our villages attractive places to stay decently. We don’t want an unbalanced India where all the villagers leave the farm lands and migrate to the information technology lead service sector in the metropolitan cities. We should have well planned cities. Let us have clean cities with the best in class roads, bridges, metro systems and Airports. Let us have sustainable developments. After learning hard lessons from the development Green technology is the talk of the Era in Europe and America. India should not follow their root and repeat the same mistakes of the western civilization.

To make such a balanced development we the younger generation should promote non-conventional research and development. Not in science and technology alone. Research and development should be promoted in every aspect of human life including social, cultural and aesthetic aspects.

We want non-conventional green energy – we want a health care system which will ensure a holistic life style, something like advanced Ayurveda. We want our rivers to be pure and clean. We want to protect all our flora and fauna. As our father of nation Bapuji said “India lives in its villages”. The day we Indians consider leaving back from cities to villages, the day all the religions of India blossom like beautiful flowers in a garden, the day there are no beggars in the streets and trains of India I would consider India is the best country in the world.

YES WE CAN……Together we can do it.

Jai Javan – Jai Kisan – Jain Hind