Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Political Economy of the Internet and Hyperpolitics

By Yeraldy Torres

The internet developed in the U.S. so the policies it goes by today were tailored to American standards although not all countries abide by the liberty encompassed in the ways of the internet. Libertarians opposed the government having the power to regulate content on the internet. This would break the rights to freedom of speech and expression. “Because the TCP/IP protocol was designed to allow communication to flow around blockages in the network, many believed it was effectively invulnerable to censorship,” (Farrell 5) leading libertarians to believe the internet was within impossible reach of the government’s control. Because the government does not have control, it is all in the hands of firms and the people to regulate. So is this a better option? Will the people make the internet the best that it can be without federal intrusion and regulation or should we expect the government to intervene when the unrealistic expectations of the internet have been created?

Bad things will still happen, such as widespread pirating and child pornography among others, but does to good outweigh the bad? I believe so. The internet is truly American (with its defects and all). Anything and everything can be available online and the government cannot regulate, except for under certain circumstances. This may be best because as with the internet, the government only steps into the market when the economic well-being of society is in danger so they break down monopolies and install price ceilings and floors. The U.S experiences very little of this regulation but countries such as China set up huge firewalls to block inappropriate sites while France and Germany attack eBay and Yahoo! for selling neo-Nazi paraphernalia. The sites removed this material because they stood to lose more if blocked by an entire nation for selling one product. So are the demands of a society going to influence what is available online? Or will another smaller site begin selling this and be altogether blocked by the select nations?

Everyone online is connected. Mark Pesce proposes the idea that “hyperconnectivity begets hypermimesis begets hyperempowerment.” The threat to society and democracy is sharing. The world is connecting at faster rates than ever before with easier and simpler methods. With these resources you’re connected to the world, informed, therefore part of a society driven to be connected. The technologies used have been readily available but it has taken time to discover the full potential of things such as texts, wikis, and the internet. These tools keep us all connected and through hypermimesis we mimic and learn how to use the resources available in order to stay connected. So is it becoming instinct to stay connected and informed? Is it a social norm to follow these standards because through just mimicking, no deep brain-racking methods, we learn how to keep up with the technology. It has become so easy to learn the methods of staying connected so is it a good or bad thing that everyone is wired and seeking their piece of the pie of power? Pesce offers that we are redefining the rules and creating a new set of mob rules. These new set of rules require for everyone to be connected, so now all these people have voices and are seeking power, hyperempowerment. So is this a threat to democracy? On a side-note, the 2008 Obama campaign led an internet-based campaign that was hyperconnected. So since hyperconnectivity begets hypermimesis begets hyperempowerment, people seek power in the campaign and as in the internet there is no central power. Obama is not the center, and everyone seeks power. So is this effective? What happens to all the people of the mob seeking power when the campaign is over? The truth is all this power does not exist. People online want power and they want it fast; our democracy cannot permit that because government is meant to work slowly. The internet and its new rules is creating unrealistic expectations for the government especially.

Mark Pesce, http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge252.html

Henry Farrell, http://www.henryfarrell.net/internet.pdf

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