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.