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[liberationtech] Cyber-sceptics wanted!

Rebecca MacKinnon rebecca.mackinnon at gmail.com
Wed Mar 2 14:16:19 PST 2011


For the record, "Program or be Programmed" is a book by Douglas Rushkoff. 

I agree with many others on this thread that the bipolar optimist-skeptic debate is no longer useful for anything other than newbie entertainment purposes. 

What is more important are the issues that John Palfrey describes so eloquently here: http://www.technologyreview.com/web/32437/
He concludes: "We should resist the urge to cheer the triumph of pro-Western democracy fueled by widespread Internet access and usage.  The contest for control of the Internet is only just beginning."

The Internet's very nature is not static. How helpful it is for democratization today varies drastically from country to country and depends on many offline political factors, regulatory factors, and economic factors. Whether the Internet will be more conducive to democracy or dictatorship in the future anywhere depends on how it evolves - not only technically but in terms of the economic and regulatory context in which it exists.
 
To that end, I'm sure Will Dutton or one of his other colleagues from the Oxford Internet Institute could speak eloquently to that state of affairs. See this paper: "Freedom of Connection - Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet"
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1654464

Abstract: 
"Over the first decade of the 21st Century, the Internet and its convergence with mobile communications has enabled greater access to information and communication resources. In 2010, nearly 2 billion people worldwide – over one-quarter of the world’s population – use the Internet. However, during the same period, defenders of digital rights have raised growing concerns over how legal and regulatory trends might be constraining online freedom of expression. Anecdotal accounts of the arrests of bloggers, the filtering of content, and the disconnection of users have sparked these concerns. However, they are reinforced by more systematic studies that provide empirical evidence of encroachments on freedom of expression, such as through the increased use of content filtering.

This report provides a new perspective on the social and political dynamics behind these threats to expression. It develops a conceptual framework on the ‘ecology of freedom of expression’ for discussing the broad context of policy and practice that should be taken into consideration in discussions of this issue. This framework structures an original synthesis of empirical research and case studies of selected technical, legal and regulatory trends. These include developments in six inter-related arenas that focus on: technical initiatives, related to connection and disconnection, such as content filtering; digital rights, including those tied directly to freedom of expression and censorship, but also indirectly, through freedom of information, and privacy and data protection; industrial policy and regulation, including copyright and intellectual property, industrial strategies, and ICTs for development; users, such as focused on fraud, child protection, decency, libel and control of hate speech; network policy and practices, including standards, such as around identity, and regulation of Internet Service Providers; and security, ranging from controlling spam and viruses to protecting national security.

By placing developments in these arenas into a broad ecology of choices, it is more apparent how freedom can be eroded unintentionally as various actors strategically pursue a more diverse array of objectives. The findings reinforce the significance of concerns over freedom of expression and connection, while acknowledging countervailing trends and the open future of technology, policy and practice. Freedom of expression is not an inevitable outcome of technological innovation. It can be diminished or reinforced by the design of technologies, policies and practices – sometimes far removed from freedom of expression. This synthesis points out the need to focus systematic research on this wider ecology shaping the future of expression in the digital age."


Best,
Rebecca






On Mar 2, 2011, at 2:12 PM, Sarah Walch wrote:

> If I had the funds/time to travel to Oxford, I would be especially interested in debate about the deliberately personalized manipulative aspects of the net. a la Rebecca MacKinnon's program or be programmed.
> 
> On Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 1:09 PM, Alec Muffett <alec.muffett at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> On 2 Mar 2011, at 18:54, Collin Anderson wrote:
> 
> > The difference in the debate isn't necessarily between liberation tech and a negative argument. Rather, against a palpable lack of nuance in some of the more effusive views often expressed even on this esteemed list.
> 
> I'd go further and say that there's a general lack of understanding, let alone nuance; for me this is most recently well-expressed in the latest (March 1) Foreign Affairs, where there's a rebuttal/counter-rebuttal by Gladwell and Shirky, both in regard to Clay's essay from the January 1 issue.
> 
> In essence the exchange boils down to:
> 
> MG: Because revolutions did occur in the pre-internet days, ergo the internet/web/socialmedia is irrelevant to revolutions. Nyaah!
> 
> CS: The internet/web/socialmedia taked the balance-of-power of communication and swings it somewhat away from the state; this lends some advantage to the citizenry. New battlefield dynamics make life somewhat trickier for authoritarianism. Suck it up and deal with it.
> 
> There - we've just saved everyone a trip to Oxford and/or the price of a magazine.
> 
>        -a
> 
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