An Internet Brief
This week on Facebook: The media celebrated the 25th anniversary of the world wide web this year, reserving a special accolade for its instigator — British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee. History may judge the last 25 years to be the time when, in one sense at least, the internet really did make the world a global village. A village where nothing, or very little, remains hidden from those who live in it. Global village neighbours expose themselves — in every sense of the word — both literally and figuratively on social media. A media that enables global neighbours to express opinions and views, within or without laws that may govern another neighbour’s behaviour. Politicians use their public administration to propagandise policy influencing public opinion and in many cases censoring public access to the internet.
Collecting 5 articles to celebrate this 25 years has not been easy, especially in trying find 5 articles that may point to where we are at the moment and where we may be heading to. The brief selection of articles are presented below.
The comments on Monday’s article suggest that there is a distinct generation gap in the benefits the internet has brought. Mirrored perhaps by Friday’s article in which the rise in popularity of the novel during the 18th and 19th century, elicited a response very similar to those expressed today about the internet.
Wednesday’s article questions the survival of a freely accessible public internet in the face of commercial and especially political exploitation. No one may own the internet per se but it is financed by commercial interests and controlled by the state. In this global village where the whole world is a stage, Barlow is playing to the gallery. Thursday’s article on internet global governance reinforces state control the internet, with both articles highlighting the naivety of the general public in its exploitation.
Those techies amongst you can click on the image below for the more technical detail but you may be surprised at the effect Jennifer Lopez had on the internet.
Monday 15/6/16 The Memory Gap: How Technology Took Over The Mind: If our brains are changing to the new digital environment, maybe we should feel encouraged by our resourcefulness. Perhaps memory is something we can afford to sideline, and instead we can focus on skimming off facts and figures while relying on our short-term memory. Ensuring that knowledge is actually remembered requires time and concentration. And in this world of instant notifications and non-stop info, speed is king. Why bother learning ten things when your phone can find out any one of a million things in a few seconds?
Tuesday 16/8/16 How Jennifer Lopez Inspired the Internet as We Know It: Lopez’s Versace dress appeared in an era when the web was, in many ways, a very different place. Forget the iPhone, or the mobile revolution it sparked; the first iPod hadn’t even come out yet. These were the days when people were still using Napster to share music. Kazaa wasn’t even a thing yet. Google was just two years old, and it was still “pretty rough” as Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) wrote in an essay for the website Project Syndicate last year.
Wednesday 17/8/16 Will The Public Internet Survive: Over 20 years ago, John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead lyricist and a cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was stranded among wonks and pols at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. After hearing presentations by world leaders pretending to understand the nascent technology of the Internet, he decided to write a manifesto stating some of the core principles of cyber-libertarianism. “Governments of the Industrial World,” it read, “you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”
Thursday 18/8/16 Internet or Splinternet? Who owns the Internet? The answer is no one and everyone. The Internet is a network of networks. Each of the separate networks belongs to different companies and organizations, and they rely on physical servers in different countries with varying laws and regulations. But without some common rules and norms, these networks cannot be linked effectively. Fragmentation – meaning the end of the Internet – is a real threat.
Friday 19/8/16 A Novel Defence Of The Internet: Well into the nineteenth century, British and American writers, critics and religious leaders regarded novel-reading with a great deal of skepticism. The history of the Christian novel identifies three chief objections to the emergent genre of long-form fiction, each of these concerns echoes the complaints we hear about the Internet today. We can also hear the echoes of 18th and 19th century moralists in contemporary hand-wringing over how the Internet is turning us into click-baited, porn-devouring imbeciles.
I believe in digital freedom but perhaps like many am concerned about an internet that is totally unfettered, clearly such an internet has ramifications, not only for those who would wish to control this domain both politically and commercially but those users of internet social media.
States already take action to curb free and unlimited access to the internet as I mentioned on in Free Expression In An Age Of Transparency and State Surveillance. I have no doubt that commercial interests, compatible with a state’s political interests, will drive the future of the internet.
The internet is like the democracy we are wont to defend. We will only value it when it is taken away from us by those commercial and political interests on the pretext of acting in our own good.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. C. S. Lewis “God in the Dock” (1948):
When the Arab-Spring sprang upon us from our television screen, I have one enduring memory of that optimistic beginning. A spring that led to the briefest of summers, to fall and become this winter of our discontent, now made inglorious as chaos became the norm in North Africa and the Middle East.
That enduring memory is of a reporter interviewing a young Tunisian and asking him what he wanted. “We want what you have!” he replied. A simple reply that, to my mind, had far reaching consequences. I don’t believe that any desire for Western democracy was high on his agenda. I do believe that he wanted Western affluence and probably the accompanying hedonism. Having seen on the internet that which he was being deprived of, he wanted a share in it. There is a chant commonly used by protesters in the UK echoing what the Tunisian said and which, perhaps, is now the mantra of all migrants in this internet global village:
What do we want!
We want what you have!
When do we want it!
We want it now!
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