I spent last week driving through the Highlands, moving between fishing villages and towns, themselves a legacy of the Clearances, where rural populations were displaced by acquisitive land owners, appropriating the commons. The shoreside settlements thrived on salmon and herring, until those stocks dried up, leaving them a shadow of their former selves. A population displaced by greed, and ultimately victim of our own greed in diminishing fish stocks. Today, the harbours lie largely empty, the fishing vessels that remain, smaller, and sparse.

Watercolour of a boat

But to the fore comes tourism, some cottage industry, and a resurgent interest in hunting and fly fishing. It’s not the first time that i’ve shared a reflection on this: the dynamic interplay between physical infrastructure, massive and unyielding, and social dynamics, and need. Social need drives population movement and activity, leading to a legacy of infrastructure. But often it’s the inability of that infrastructure to evolve that traps the legacy population. We leave a long tail of dereliction behind us.

Potentially, newer models of labour organisation, and distributed tech infrastructure, will evolve this picture: we move from a model predominantly of centralised and aggregated infrastructure, to one of distributed and interconnected. Often serving multiple Organisations. In this sense, perhaps there is greater resilience built into the system.

This distribution leads to devolved structures of power (and wealth) as well, and perhaps, in time, a model of production that is itself more accountable. We already see social conscience (e.g. Google’s ongoing narrative around sexual misconduct) impacting into the ‘real’ world of finance and reporting.

It’s easy to see the historical narrative of change, far harder to spot it in our world today, as it happens.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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