Communication and Civil Society (III). John Perry Barlow: Net neutrality struggle and new movements in the digital era (I)

Notes from the Civil Society and Politics transformation in the Internet Age, organized by the Communication and Civil Society seminar of the IN3 in in Barcelona, Spain, in October 26-27, 2011. More notes on this event: comsc.

Net neutrality struggle and new movements in the digital era.
John Perry Barlow (Electronic Frontier Foundation).

The opposite of a trivial truth is false; the opposite of a great truth is also truth, Niels Bohr.

We are living in an era where we are both able of greatest advances in human technology and, at the same time, able to destroy ourselves or endanger the lives of all of us. The corporation is supposed to be made of humans, but as a construct they are more than that. Corporations used to mediate between people, and because of the instantaneous network of global communications all those processes have been increasingly accelerated. And they corporations are now in the process of swallowing the Earth, for the benefit of all of us, but at the same time against our survival.

While it is true that huge corporations are like a cancer, it is also true that each individual is like a cell that is part of that tumour. And, thus, the question is: as a cell from a tumour, what do you do?

Once there is a possibility to communicate your thoughts instantly across the world, the you as a container of thought, or knowledge, is challenged. And this is related with the crisis of monotheism, which is based on thoughts not easily spread and shared, about the monopoly of thought. Monotheism is opposed to pantheism, as the unity of thought is opposed to the multiplicity of thought.

The same tools that are so useful for sharing your thoughts and acts are, at the very same time, the best surveillance tools ever. And not only in the real time, but also in past times, as your actions can be traced back because of the breadcrumbs you left behind.

And there is almost no way to avoid the visibility. Privacy is thus arguably not defensible — even sometimes not desirable either — but this does not mean that we have to change the way institutions look down on people, or to change the way that institutions present themselves before the public. But until this change happens, there have to be ways to balance the powers of institutions and citizens.

There is a will to control expression and its spread. And copyright has become one of the main barriers to expression, despite the fact that it was designed to protect the freedom of expression. Sharing is hardcoded in human beings, and the fact that sharing can be prevented because somebody owns them is, basically, against the future.

An incredible gift to the future is the ability to be able to discover everything that one needs to know.

There is a problem that we must address: the growing concentration of wealth, energy and power. And a concentration that still wants more, as stated in Barlow’s Law of Economic insufficiency: the more you have, the shorter it feels. We have to collectively stand up and find ways that they do not get more, of that the more they get the more it gets redistributed. We have to find ways to make the world work the same way that we found ways to make the Internet work, taking into consideration the ecology of the resources.

Discussion

Manuel Castells: the world is run by “ungrateful dead”, the institutions that rule the world are dead and it is impossible to expect from them any kind of change, or even reflection. And, as some demonstrators said, it’s not about the crisis, is that I don’t love you anymore. So, dead institutions on one side, people willing to love something else on the other side. The way of reconstruct this world is through a long process, so we need patience and a road map for the long run. But something quick must be done also in the short term to avoid the total collapse of the system. Surely the networks of solidarity will work to avoid collapse.

Q: We have to try help people understand that the nature of authority has changed. John Perry Barlow: If you change consciousness, politics will change itself. The problem is that some issues are like a religious view that might not be able to change. Maybe half the population has to die first before a change is acknowledged.

Ismael Peña-López: will the death of half the population really make a change? Won’t we hit a glass ceiling that will prevent any kind of change? JP Barlow: the cyberspace is, in may ways, a feminine movement, made of sharing, of collaboration. And even if women are still struggling with their own glass ceiling, they are actually changing the mentality of many, substituting a monotheism (male) with a new pantheism (feminine).

Civil Society and Politics transformation in the Internet Age (2011)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2011) “Communication and Civil Society (III). John Perry Barlow: Net neutrality struggle and new movements in the digital era (I)” In ICTlogy, #97, October 2011. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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1 Comment to “Communication and Civil Society (III). John Perry Barlow: Net neutrality struggle and new movements in the digital era (I)” »

  1. Pingback: (Español) Mesa II. La lucha por la defensa de la neutralidad en la red y los nuevos movimientos de la era digital | Ricard Espelt

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