Tony Curzon-Prize, who visited Second Life recently, has an editorial up today at opendemocracy.net about Zittrain's presentation. In a fitting (unwitting) coda to his piece, I can't get logged in to his site to leave a comment. My usual password doesn't work, I finally get the right user name, I urge the system to send me my password again...and it never comes, and no, duh, it's not in the spam filters, which of course I long ago learned to look into. Closed out again, from the Open Society of Open Democracy by a technical glitch (not a ban, in this case, but it could be that at other venues like Terra Nova).
Tony's pieces are always very thinky, and it's always good to find someone this thoughtful on these issues, but they're usually about one or two levels above what I'm willing to exert on a Sunday afternoon. I spent years studying Aristotle, but what's "Aristotelean" about Zittrain's comments escapes me, and it's one of those occasions when you wish the author, instead of appearing learned, would teach, so that others could learn. No matter. The point is he's willing to give a critical study of Zittrain, which is a public service.
Zittrain is ranting on in PowerPoints about all these top-down evil structures that want to control the Internet and which we must fight. However, what we really must fight is him and his technolibertarian viewpoints because ironically, the big bland corporations that he rails against, just by showing up, having a bottom line, and maintaining the rule of law, may provide more liberties for the average person than he's willing to admit. This is an awful trade-off, of course, the kind of trade-off that any cradle-to-grave socialism or corporativism will make, but the question has to be starkly asked online.
When Zittrain (or Curzon-Price) waves around the term "communitarian," I can't help thinking they've merely found a term that they think will have less baggage than communism. But communitarianism is no better, in placing the "community" (as they define it) above the individual, and talking about "social needs" and such -- as these techno-elites, again, define them.
Here's what gives it away:
"JZ's impassioned cry in the face of all these attempts to move problems into the realm of authority is to ``give communities a chance''. JZ's view of the future of the Internet is that it will continue to be assailed by ills of various sorts, from malware to business interests protecting their old way of making bacon. If at every turn we acquiesce and allow the top-down ``solution'', the Internet will have demonstrated its ``self-closing'' property: the open system that shut itself down
Well, no. The open system that isn't really open that is threatening to shut the Internet down is in fact...the soi-disant opensource movement, the hacker mentality, the copyleftism. This belief that some evil top-down corporation or government bringing in rules or property rights are the ones "shutting it all down" is only a tech-meme.
That is, only those who want to take power as techno-elites *say this*. The rest of us might well find our interests protected *better* by "top down" solutions that have more interactive democracy than a horrid geeky closed "open source working group" that decides for everybody else because they're "too stupid".
Seriously, this is not only a cultural problem of the geek style of doing things ("let's not have any 'no' votes because that's negative and we need positive collaboration"); it's political. Highly political.
>Is the space of most our politics--representative democracies establish a single structure of control, with, in reality, little choice between them
Sleight of hand once again. Take away representative democracy with a facile, geeky swipe, claiming that a complex, multi-party, multi-interest-group society has "a single structure of control". Huh? With "in reality, little choice between them." What does this guy *smoke*? For him, Hilary or Obama or McCain may look no different at all, if he posits that it's all part of the American evil imperialist blahblahblah.
But of course, they do have different positions, and they matter for people in all kinds of ways, and they participate in the debate, with actually more activism that Americans have participated in a long time. We're to shed this...for a PowerPointer who wants to put his own tribe in charge?
Or here's another giveaway!
As Tony paragraphs Zittrain:
"Pragmatic, expert-driven communities "got things done" on the Net, all the way from the protocol stack in the Internet's innards to its Domain Name Server (DNS) system to Wikipedia."
Yeah, I'll bet they get things done! Because nobody gets to participate in their little closed shops that are "open" only in the sense that they hang out a shingle openly to collect and filtrate other "like-minded".
And, the DNS system is something everyone is happy with? Isn't it a kind of bridge-troll system that ensures there are all these little companies that constantly collect money to do something that takes a few mouse clicks?
And Wikipedia...Wikpedia!...is your example of an Open Society? *Blinks*. It's no accident, comrades, that we are seeing scandals now involving Jimmy Wales himself and charges that he sold off the right to edit pages to some lucky individuals or that he used foundation money for his girlfriend.
That's what happens in *any* system that has no checks and balances...no board that exercises responsibility...no editorial policy...no RULE OF LAW. Of course when there is money just given away to something that claims it is Doing Good, there will always be people who grab it for their mistresses. Happens all the time. Of course, when you have no paying public, no editorial policy, no board, like the old dinosaur media, you will have edits in your favour available to the highest bidder.
Here you hated on advertising and said that American and imperialist and evil because big corporations presumably got to support the conservative or establishment middle-of-the-road papers that suited their businesses, and the left-wing truths couldn't see the light of day. But...how is buying off a page to get the left-wing or person truth visible so different?
Honestly, we all know there aren't perfect solutions in the old media, and that the new media is bringing important rectifications, empowerments, opportunities. But it is also rife with the same old problems of power, human beings didn't change their natures.
There's more...of this sort, "
- is where the market lives.."
Evil market...that plays to consumers...that brings mass culture and mass taste so hated by tekkie grouplets!