Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended. And this is all very natural and organic and in tune with mysterious cycles of the cosmos, which believes that there is nothing like millions of years of really frustrating trial and error to give a species fiber and, in some cases, backbone …
… infrastructures for a free Internet from an anti-capitalist point of view: autonomous servers, open networks, online services, platforms, open hardware, free software, …
Save for a few exceptions, all of us have been shaped by the dominant communications technologies of the 20th century (printing press, radio, television, and the telephone) and our use of them. These technologies make knowledge available, opens our minds to events around the world, and in the case of the telephone, extended our means of conversation.
They have truly been technologies of freedom in that sense. Yet with all their advantages, these technologies also seem to exercise a tyranny, favouring passive reception of information and entertainment over thoughtful reaction, and in the case of the phone favouring immediate response over considered and deliberative response. And it seemed only a matter of time before some demagogues in a position to dominate our institutions see the potential in our mass communications.
We were favouring “listening” and “viewing” when in the 1990’s, the story of communications technology changed into the growth of computer communications favouring “free expression”. A story of personal websites, blogging, free software, patent trolls and licensing struggles, social media, tunnels, protocols, cycle upon cycle of new hardware, and hacking. Yet freedom of expression today still faces that age old economic divide. Money can purchase greater ability to be heard. How will the economic disparity involved in “free” expression develop?
Keeping the internet free from governmental jurisdiction seems a lost battle. US corporations are already the Masters of the Internet.
And the same technologies that “liberate” also “incarcerate” us. While social networking sites like twitter and facebook make expression to a wide audience much easier they have also “bans” and “twitter jail” (neither is effective) and more seriously, have led to prosecutions of those deemed to be abusive or offensive.
Where is the limit to freedom of expression and can that limit be moved? The fear that “offensive” ideas will necessarily spread if given a voice is a conclusion not following from its premise. Allowing for free expression also allows for free debate. Thus, when an idea emerges that is deemed morally repugnant it should not be censored but, instead, allowed a voice. We can then choose to investigate or debate these ideas and those found to have no foundation can meet Ockham’s Razor.
Will free expression transform into a largely public phenomenon? Will such speak be truly free, or will it be littered with self-censorship due to the forming of what appears to be a panopticon? And what about those seemingly endlessly repeating patterns?
If we want to avoid infrastructures that mirror the winner-take-all world depicted in Game of Thrones, we need to make sure that the services, platforms, and devices that make up our infrastructures are developed and operated in a way that is fundamentally compatible with free expression and aspects of autonomy.
To counter these dynamics we need a multitude of informal initiatives, companies, cooperatives and collectives to provide the technology that we need, and whose design guarantees that they are free, appropriate and are not there to promote individuation or limit our freedoms, but to guarantee our rights in the spheres of expression, cooperation, privacy and anonymity. If we want technology to ensure these rights, we need to build and/or value them, and contribute to their development. As declared by the hacktivist collective Autistici/Inventati: “Freedom and rights? You have to sweat blood for them! On the Internet, too“