The Fifth Estate

"The Fifth Estate: Community Inter-activism" was a neologism coined to entitle a work in progress. At the time, the term was original, as was the White Paper itself --- a thesis which would focus upon a progressive application of technology in a working community, preferably situated in the Merrimack River Valley. Newburyport was selected the subject community, with much of its local history woven into the theme of "community in the work" --- the Plan in Motion.

The ideal was the development of a virtual town meeting to promote familiar commerce and achieve common ground between all estates in the city-state, using what was then state-of-the-art information technology. It was meant to empower the Waterside people with the enlightenment of "certain knowledge" --- a factual knowledge base --- with this information gleaned for periodic publication of newsletters, broadsides or leaflets.

Of course, it was and remains impractical to conceive the virtual estate could totally replace published copy or direct (corporeal) contact. Therefore, an approach for improving both virtual and physical meetings and restoring the "Annual Town Meeting" was suggested, and woven into the motif. The compass was the Waterside Plan in Motion, the timeless agenda put forth in the petition to set off the Waterside Third Parish as the separate town of Newburyport in 1764. The longterm calendar was based upon generations of 30 years, charted in 5-year terms based upon the old style Julian calendar, and benchmarked annually. The newest renditions in technology and the steadfast traditions in ideology. The best of the establishment and movement.1

Updating the Map

Note that there are four estates of the traditional political "classes" formerly vested with distinct political powers: (1) The First Estate, the Church, Clergy --- in England, represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury and in America, with due consideration of the separation of Church & State, the ecumenical body of churches; (2) The Second Estate, Nobility --- in England represented by the House of Lords and in America, with no recognized aristocracy, the gentry of the 17th through 19 centuries, or the 20th and 21st century's "plutocracy"; (3) The Third Estate, Commoners --- in England represented by the House of Commons and in the Republic of America, representative government; (4) The Fourth Estate --- The free press, the media. The proposition of “The Fifth Estate” would establish a common ground for these spheres of power, fostering comity and communication and a complement of perspectives --- for the common weal.

With the New Millennium, the term "The Fifth Estate" became overused and the definition (under)mined on the Internet. (There are always those information highwaymen riding, riding.) Sites on the World Wide Web appropriated (inappropriately) the term as an anarchistic movement, a revolution against the establishment. Since the mode for progress in the Waterside movement is revelation through comity and communication and informative enlightenment --- the term "The Fifth Estate" is therefore now used quite infrequently.

The epithet remains associated with the movement's exponent, Newburyport's eccentric 18th Century merchant adventurer Lord Timothy Dexter --- the self-appointed member of The Second Estate who on occasion Awakens the Spirit in the Waterside. Though sometimes "invoked to form" to serve as Official Whiffler, "His Lordship E-meritus" dwells in his virtual seat quoting from his inimitable production "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" advising today's generation of the Waterside people ---

"Now turn the systom of knollege & Lite into good morrels of onnesty and good Axions" ---

The term "community inter-activism" still defines use of information technology, as originally contrived in an earlier generation of the "Information Age" and further along that information highway --- With the groundwork defined in ancient Greece and later refined in the New World: that the best form of governance for the community --- the polis, the city-state --- is largely dependent upon the sphere of effective communications within that community, that body politic. Toward the eve of the Millennium however, the term has also lost its originality and has become generic to such applications and "groupware." As with the Fifth Estate, there are domain names using various versions of the term.

It should be noted that at the time of the aforementioned study, the state-of-the-art technology for relational data bases was by far less sophisticated. The Internet was only traveled by the Department of Defense and was not for public use.2 Keywords for "knowledge bases" used a primitive Boolean logic and the indexing was not automatic. Today, the tools and methodology have advanced at the local, regional and global levels: Instruments for communications are powerful --- and "groupware" software applications for information exchange abound.

Yet it is an obscure word and its obsolete definition lifted from the 1629 Massachusetts Bay Charter that will make any design of "The Fifth Estate: Community-interactivism" a successful venture. The word is conversation and (as referenced in the aforementioned article of the Charter) the word was used to describe conduct or behavior. Some 375 years later --- (as the Waterside moves past the milestone that marked the thirteenth generation of its settlement in 1644 and the ninth generation as the established town of Newburyport in 1764) --- we should restore that obsolete definition of "conversation," as our forebears of the first generation understood the term.

As we pursue "conversation" and "familiar commerce" in the virtual (and physical) spheres --- in written and spoken words --- do not excuse personal detraction with a platitude from the Age of Enlightenment, quoting Voltaire that "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" --- especially when it distracts us from matters of importance. Instead consider another axiom, quoting Thomas Jefferson that "Information is the currency of democracy." Let us make that currency the working capital of our "community in the work." Let us keep it current and sound and ensure it is not counterfeit, worthless, or deprecating others in the community. Or we devalue Community --- physical or virtual.

1The study itself was undertaken during a generation of conflict over the development of a hotel on the Waterfront, and the struggle for the Firehouse to remain a community venue. A corollary to the thesis would present a compromise solution: In lieu of a looming, self-contained Waterfront hotel or conference inn, a mixed-use, combined meetinghouse and ordinary which could serve as private and public space was suggested. Smaller taverns, inns and bed and breakfast hostelries could then be virtually linked as a private consortium. Projections for scheduled use of such facilities identified this as a practical solution, with daytime business conferences, evening public meetings, and weekends scheduled for either private affairs or the occasional public event.
2April, 2003 marks the ten year anniversary of the first Internet browser interface, which made the World Wide Web accessible to the general user community (link without).
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