Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Open Source Politics

Open Source Politics is no longer a “wave of the future” phenomenon. Rather, it has now become a present day lifestyle. In the simplest of terms, open source politics is a methodology in which social networking and electronic civic engagement has revolutionized the ability to follow, support and influence particular areas of politics. The question isn’t whether open source exists, is effective, or even serves a purpose. Open source has been blatantly utilized through the YouTube debates during the presidential campaign, The Smirking Chimp and twitter-feeds for major news networks. Instead, the question of Open Source is assessing the enhancement and pitfalls, and whether limitations can or should be placed without infringing upon our 1st amendment rights. Richard Barbrook’s article Virtual Dreams, Real Politics examines the influence the Cold War has had on the new online generation. A technological revolution in essence promised democracy within an undemocratic state – this leads to the question: can free social networking exist in an “unfree” environment? Soviet communists dove into computerization headfirst, believing they could achieve socialism, yet could never make a complete transition without some sacrifice to power. BBC News reported on a 2003 study done by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) divulging the degree of censorship existing within Chinese chat rooms. RWB estimated the state utilized nearly 30,000 employees to monitor all online activity. A grading scale of 1-10 was implemented (harmless postings to severe criticism of the government) and 70% of level 7/8 were removed within a few hours of being posted. The “Self Disclipline Act” requires organizations to weed out postings related to banned topics, including (but not limited to): human rights, Taiwan independence, pornography, oral sex and Sars. Take this censorship issue straight to the United States in terms of Wikipedia. Nicholas Carr’s blog Rise of the Wikicrats references the rapid deletion of new articles. He likens the infiltrators to the infamous Soup Nazi – if George Costanza cannot get his turkey chili, why should Carr be able to post arguably “irrelevant” text online (as determined only by the elite)? I think this reinforces Marshall McLuhan’s idea that the knowledge elite, rather than the proletariat makes history. How free is free social networking? Open Source is meant to execute democracy in the way democracy should be executed: immediately and frequently in a widespread manner. All should be exposed and all can decide how to take part. Weblogs and Emergent Democracy by (mostly) Joichi Ito describes an essay that has been mass circulated, peer reviewed, and edited by the commons. Democracy mean to expand upon the social software. The internet was supposed to be a gathering place to correct imbalances and therefore must be developed appropriately within reason to avoid tyranny of the majority. A second question is then introduced: can social networking eventually lead to an overthrow of traditional news? When Trent Lott made racist remarks, he became a media story before eventually fizzling away. Blogs continued coverage, digging into his past until Lott resurfaced in the news. When conventional media provides only clips and sound bytes, the online community can help give the ‘full scoop,’ however irrelevant or meaningless the content may be. Even though blogs perpetuate discussion, is their ever hope for redemption? Newspapers may be forgiving, but the determined cyber-users continue to press, hound and report. Open Source Politics is a fundamental expression of true democracy. Douglas Alexander states the driving force of politics has always been the capacity for change and betterment. My only concern is that he continuous strive for “change” will lead us back to pre-constitutional times. If all becomes free does that mean nothing will be free?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From CounterCulture to CyberCulture

by Kris Winstrom

In the article “From Counterculture to Cyber culture” , the author, Turner brings to light, how the internet on the one hand stemmed from the techies of the 60s and 70s, but also the Countercultural movement of the time. However, when one think of a countercultural movement or system today, the internet is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. This is, as the author claims, because we now live in a Cyber culture.

To me this seems like one of the most effective countercultural movements in our history. Not only has it changed our culture, system and the ways we look upon our world, but furthermore after an initial slow start it exploded into our lives in a way that make us think that this is the only system, which without, we would not survive. Some people would argue that the internet is in fact not Countercultural anymore, which I disagree with. It has broken down many of the walls of bureucracies as the early innovators hoped and the very nature of the internet challenges the market and society we live in.

Its ironic that the hippie ideals of the 1960s and 70s, which where so heavily scrutinized, are not at all left behind us, but has reemerged stronger then ever before thru the internet. Peer-to-Peer production, with no monetary incentives, but instead rather based on the incentive of group recognition, is very much something counter cultural in my opinion and yet people don’t see it. With this said, I am not stating that the internet is bad, but rather that the internet has changed and continues to change our culture in ways that may turn out pernicious. Because no one can negate the fact that the internet enables people to attack and severely damage our lives, culture, government and other social systems.

Another interesting aspect, is that of the hackers. Many will argue that hackers do more to push technology then the “planners” and other type of innovators. This hypothesis is based upon how they are thinking outside the box and are not contained by laws and other types of rules. This might very well be true, however, I would argue that the hackers often push the technology in the wrong direction and do not consider the macro picture. Furthermore, ethics are often not considered by hackers and I have a hard time with agreeing to their small exclusive groups being the real innovators of the internet and the world.