Sourcemap - a hint of political software to come
It's still in beta, but it's what it'll evolve into that's so interesting
From worldchanging.com comes an interesting posting about Sourcemap, an open tool for visualizing the supply chains that contribute to the products you buy. It's a great idea: name a product, and you can see where its pieces were sourced, who built what and where--in short, who's involved in making your life happen.
This is great, but it's the step after Sourcemap that really interests me: when the app can fully trace the corporate ownership of the entities involved, as well as their publicly-available information things like campaign contributions. Because the stuff you buy isn't just made by people and corporations; it's made by political movements and their supporters. For good or ill, in the near-term future we're looking at being able to instantly, seamlessly, and completely boycott entire polities by simply filtering your buying options. Imagine an iPhone app where you aim the iPhone's camera at a product on the shelf in the store, and the iPhone tells you how in-line with your own political stripe (how green, or how Republican) the aggregate entity that built it is. Instead of deciding which of sixteen varieties of spaghetti to buy based on the colour of the box or (God forbid) the price, you can do so based on whether the companies owners support progressive family planning programs in Africa.
The prospect is both terrifying and exhilarating. Terrifying because products can no longer succeed or fail entirely on their own merits. Politics will enter buying in a big way. --Exhilarating because of the prospect of laying bare the world as it really is--a world where purchasing decisions have never been innocent, but we have previously never had the ability to follow through on that knowledge.
I could never boycott everyone I disagreed with — I'd starve!
As for me, I don't bother with boycotts since I'd end up starving — I don't think there's a company on Earth with practices, or an ideology, that I completely (or even largely) agree with. Just looking at grocery stores, I shop at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and the local chain supermarket, and don't completely like or hate any of them. I don't like that Wal-Mart tends to censor the media they carry (either by requiring "clean" variants of music, or simply not carrying something), or that Whole Foods is rather environmentally-crazed, or that the local chain supermarket is rather expensive because they use union labor. I do like that Wal-Mart is cheap as hell, that Whole Foods has excellent products I can't find elsewhere, and that the local chain supermarket is conveniently located and open 24 hours.
I just buy what works for me at the moment; just as I don't vote because it's a waste of time due to the statistical insignificance, I wouldn't bother with a boycott because it would be a waste of time *and* would leave me without anywhere to shop.