Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Free Internet, The Free Market

There is no such thing as "the internet" apart from laws, norms, institutions, practices that are not "the internet." There is no natural, spontaneous, abiding, spatial reality that is either "the internet" or "the market" -- and it is no surprise that arguments presumably defending, saving, promoting "the free internet" are made so often by the same people who make arguments defending, saving, promoting "the free market" and so often in ways that re-enact the false, facile terms defending, saving, promoting "the free market."

More Futurological Brickbats here.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

For what it's worth, in the twitter conversation that ensued from the two tweets that became this "futurological brickbat/dispatch from libertopia" I went on to make this probably obscure, but to me still interesting, academic point: "The force of [Evgeny] Morozov's critique of net-centrism is importantly continuous with the force of critiques of market naturalism/spontaneism. So, too, solutionism beholden to a false net-centric substantial-internet figure re-enacts the gesture of reductive externalizing cost-benefit analyses beholden to market spontaneism."


Unknown said...

Jay here. This seems rather deliberately obtuse. It seems obviously useful to have a name for the network of machines that we're communicating over, and "internet" is as good a name as any.

Certainly the machines and software are embodiments of the norms and practices that created them. Equally obviously the machines and software are meaningfully distinct from the norms, practices, and institutions themselves. For example, some of the coding practices were ended in the 90s or earlier; the code itself lives on.

Bob Johnson said...

Of course not a damn thing is free or spontaneous but white people could give a fuck. Cause in their history they have taken eveything by force and then acted like it was because they were somewhow special as if it was some divine guidance that led them to robbing people for their wealth. so these two ideas of free and spontaneuous will persist for as long as white western cultures persist at they fuckin are.

Dale Carrico said...

It is a commonplace for people to metaphorize "the internet" as "a place" or "an experience" based on parochial assumptions or expectations or without much sense of the specificity or contingency of the laws, norms, infrastructural affordances that enable/ articulate/ constitute particular practices on "it." As a result, people regularly fail to grasp the plurality of the network of networks, nor to grasp on what laws and code (in both cases quite literally) the online experiences they value actually depend. Even quite brilliant people will organize to defend a "free internet" or write a "bill of rights" for the internet, failing to grasp that the locus for organizing to that end is not "the internet" itself as some substantial cyberspatial site but the legal and normative and technical regimes, the states and cultures, in which what now passes for "the internet" are sited. I must say, anyone who imagined what they personally mean by "the internet" will "live on" as is just because so many devices are plugged in the wall and so much legacy codes are scattered in the cloud risks being the one declared obtuse by knowledgeable people, although possibly not deliberately.