ARTS3091 Blog 8 – Social Organisation

May 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Will the Internet become a ‘localnet’ and what will this mean for the ‘world wide’ of the web?

It is interesting to look at the world wide web in comparison to the printing press; two technologies that Marshal McLuhan believes have had a profound affect on social organization.

The printing press was invented in 1440 and in popular use by 1500. By the mid 15th century the government and church were actively censoring printing press through licensing and prohibition.  If we compare the above history to that of the Internet, we can see some interesting comparisons. The first connection of ARPANET in 1969, arguably the ‘birth’ of the Internet; everyday use of the internet beginning around 1995 and now the introduction of CISPA and SOPA in the states (not to mention Australia’s implemented blacklist).

So if the Internet is to become censored in the same manner printing press was, will we see a ‘meshnet’ revolution, similar to such printing revolutions as the polish underground press? I believe, based in the comparisons above, that the concept explored by Donald Rushkof in his article “The Evolution Will be Socialized” will become a reality, at least in part.

Unfortunately, as Rushkof discusses, while the internet may seem to complement a peer to peer culture, it is actually built upon hierarchical infrastructure. For this reason, I believe following internet censorship ‘localnets’ will form, based on meshnet or darknet wifi technology. By ‘localnet’ I mean a connection of networked computers that are incredibly prohibited by physical space. For example a localnet would be restricted to local data and unable to send or receive international data due to the government and corporate ownership of transnational submarine cables.

It is interesting to consider a world that would by heavily connected on a hyper local level, yet isolated globally. While this is far from a reality it would offer insight into global networks and help us visualize how current hyper local networks operate.

References

Rushkoff, Douglas (2011) ‘The Evolution Will Be Socialized’, Shareable: Science and Tech <http://www.shareable.net/blog/the-evolution-will-be-socialized>

ARTS3091 Blog 7 -Transparency & True Democracy

May 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Can the ubiquitous way in which data is stored, manipulated and accessed help create a ‘true’ or at least a ‘truer’ democracy?

In Australia we have a representative democracy; a model analogous to a pyramid, where everyday people give input at the bottom of the pyramid, which is then passed to the top, where decisions are made.

I think it is important to look at transparency in two separate ways: – The transparency of function and the transparency of communication.

Make the functions visible

As Catherine Styles (2009) discusses in her blog, the first step to a ‘truer’ democracy is to make the functions of democracy clearly visible. Making information available keeps people accountable, and as discussed in ‘Open Gov the Movie’ it also makes people more involved. As Jake Brewer of Open Gov states, “If we knew everyday how many lobbying dollars were being contributed on the healthcare debate… it would change the debate… people would be so much more aware and so much more participatory than they are now”.

Brewer also discusses the possibility of ‘real-time democracy’ in which we can see the decisions made by politicians instantaneously. In my opinion, the idea of real-time and naked transparency of functions may be utopic and unrealistic, however should be something we strive for to create a ‘truer’ democracy. By making the functions visible we are keeping the pyramid model, however it is a more ‘visible’ pyramid, this is representative of a traditional notion of transparency.

Make communication transparent

As the function of government becomes more transparent, there is a growing possibility to change the current pyramid model on which government is built. That is, rather than having communication from everyday people to decision makers travel through several conduits, regular people can be closer to the decision making process; more similar to a funnel than a pyramid. This presents some technical difficulties, as discussed in ‘open gov the movie’ one of the largest problems of this funnel model is converging data from potentially hundreds of thousands of people, into a format that can be navigated by less than 10.

There is no denying that each new innovation will bring new problems, and this funnel model would be no exception.

I think further research could be conducted into forms of social media which deal with massive amounts of traffic and content, such as twitter, facebook, pinterest and reddit, and then applying these means of content and traffic management into potential funnel models of government.

 References

Styles, Catherine (2009) ‘A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’ <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>

Quigley, Chris (2010) Open Gov the Movie <http://www.delib.co.uk/opengov>

 

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