I welcome any questions from members that would help them gauge if I am the sort of person they feel would be a benefit to the Board (BoG).
Firstly though, I'd like to tell you about myself, and relate how I feel I have something to bring to the Board.
Who am I?
My name is Stephen, I am in my early-thirties (pleased to say I am NOT twice the age of any current younger candidate Edit: this claim is no longer accurate), and have been interested in politics all of my adult life, and quite a bit of my non-adult life too. The weight of my life experiences and maturity (hopefully not a liability!) would be part of what I have to offer on the board.
While placing myself, politically, somewhere on the socialist/liberal part of the spectrum, and having voted in every election I have been able to, I have never been a member of a political party. I joined the PPUK however within hours of hearing of its existence.
I feel this goes some way towards indicating just how strongly the Pirate political movement resonates with me, as I am sure it does with all of you.
I would be the first to agree that I don't have a lot of active party political experience. I do, however, feel that I have a lot of experience and understanding of political processes.
I also recognise that the Board of Governors isn't a policy driving body, and should be focused internally on party governance. I do feel that the way in which the party governs itself should reflect the external policies of the party, focusing on fairness, and getting the right balance of privacy/openness where necessary.
Education, Employment, & Transferable Skills
I hold a BSc (hons) in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and an MSc in Computing Science. I have, I'd like to think, a more than layman's understanding of many of the issues surrounding pharmaceutical/software patents and this weird 'new' digital online environment that it feels like the last government only just noticed exists.
I've worked in two schools and four universities (one of which, just to name-drop, was Imperial), and while this has covered a range of different jobs, they've all had a very similar core. Dealing with staff to train and advise on the use of 'learning technologies'. In other words, taking something complicated, understanding it, and transferring that understanding to others. These sorts of comprehension and people skills are transferable to pretty much any situation where I need to work with complex issues and people.
Other aspects of my current job are:
- Keeping up to date with new technologies
- Applying new and existing technologies to the educational context
- Advising, training, and supporting University staff
- Sit in (seemingly) endless meetings discussing all sorts of things including educational theory, practical applications of technologies, planning of projects, formulating policies, etc.
- I'm always monitoring new physical and online technologies and trying to understand how they work
- I am able to look at a technology in one context and evaluate alternate uses
- I am practised at explaining technologies to a wide range of differently skilled/educated audiences
- I am skilled at working in project groups, understanding complex issues, writing and re-writing complicated documents
- I am used to working on strategy-level boards producing strategy, policy, and regulations documents.
My Core Beliefs
I know that many people can be drawn to the same thing for different reasons, so I want to share what is important about this party (and our ideal objectives/outcomes) from my perspective. These aren't necessarily directly relevant to the BoG, but it seems, to me, to be the best way of being clear about who I am and what I stand for.
In increasing order of importance (from my perspective):
A movement of rights and protections from corporate group entities to individuals.
I believe that personal and individual freedoms are important. It is vital to redress the balance between individuals and greedy faceless corporate entities.
Rights of society and information commons
More important that personal freedoms, to me anyway, is a desire to shift the balance back towards society. Over time laws (copyright in particular) have changed to take more and more intellectual output/creativity/ingenuity away from society and given to individuals. I see the value in encouraging creativity with limited protections for commercial exploitation, but LIMITED is the key word.
I liken what has happened to a form of creative inclosure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclosure) with corresponding loss of the creative and intellectual commons. Laws that were designed to stimulate creativity specifically to deliver, for free, creative and intellectual output to society have mutated to do their damnedest to lock up the intellectual output for commercial exploitation only. Society does not benefit from there being more information for society to pay for. Society benefits from the free exchange of ideas, and the ability to take someone else's idea and improve upon it.
Recognising new economies mean new economic models
Digital economies are radically different from (pained expression) the analogue economy from 'physical' economies, and society and business need to understand that and if need be radically shift they way they operate to accommodate it. The nature of information, digital works, ideas, and thoughts, are such that sharing them should not be hampered by all the restrictions they currently are. I listened to a speech from Eben Moglen a few years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NorfgQlEJv8) and was struck by what he said:
And so we face, in the twenty-first century, a very basic moral question. If you could make as many loaves of bread as it took to feed the world, by baking one loaf and pressing a button, how could you justify charging more for bread than the poorest people could afford to pay? If the marginal cost of bread is zero, then the competitive market price should be zero too. But leaving aside any question of microeconomic theory, the moral question, 'What should be the price of what keeps someone else alive if it costs you nothing to provide it to them', has only one unique answer. There is no moral justification for charging more for bread that costs nothing than the starving can pay. Every death from too little bread under those circumstances is murder. We just don't know who to charge for the crime.
I struggle to openly express emotions (I'm so very British), but this moves me still. For anyone who hasn't watched his speech, do so now! You can always come and read what I've written later.
He is right, we are exactly there, now. It may sound trite to say "information wants to be free", but it is surely much worse to say "it is acceptable for people to suffer or live in inferior conditions to me because they can't afford to have access to information".
I used to have a copy of the magna carta on my bedroom wall, and was fond of the clause 'No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers except those with an ancient obligation to do so'. This demonstrates, perhaps, an early fondness for constitutions. If elected, I'll make sure PPUK members are never forced to build (physical) bridges (by the party), unless they have an ancient obligation to do so.
As a member of a particular University student society for many years (I am still eligible as an associate member as I am not a student any more), I have always been vociferous about us following our constitution to the letter, even if it was not in our best interests, taking the view point that if we want to do things differently we should make the effort to change our society constitution rather than just ignore it. It has frequently been joked, when anyone has wanted to know a particular society constitutional regulation, that I'm the person to ask as no-one else can be bothered to read it. I suppose this indicates a willingness to stick to the rules (even if sometimes that is a bad thing) although I hope it also shows a respect for constitutions people select for themselves and a willingness to be involved in both the understanding of them and the effort to change them where necessary. I think the relevance of this to the BoG speaks for itself.
I want to be on the BoG (no sniggering there at the back!) because I think I can make a valuable contribution to it, and I am prepared to put in both the time and effort it requires. I want the PPUK to be a success, and through membership of the BoG I hope to be able to help make this happen.
Note I am also standing as RAO for the South East. I have noted other people putting themselves forwards make a point to say they won't take part in votes that deal with other official positions they hold. I am not sure if this is necessary or not. If I held both a BoG and a RAO position I feel this would give me a very good understanding of RAO issues and therefore I would want to take part in discussions and votes dealing with them - as I suspect real conflicts of interest won't be very common. Instead I would judge potential conflicts of interest on a case by case basis, and only exempt myself where there was one - importantly I would recognise and respect the views of other BoGs on the off-chance I was unable to spot a conflict of interest myself.
Edit: Seconded by tuoni (just for those who prefer seconds to not be also standing)