For the first time in human history, digital networks allowed billions of people to communicate across national boundaries, instantly, at no cost, in any media format— from text to video.
Within this new global media culture, information about an earthquake in China, violence in Kenya or a protest in the Middle East could be shared between people with only a few hundred dollars worth of technology. Within this new global media culture, a “cognitive surplus” (as Clay Shirkey calls it) easily creates Wikipedia with a mere 100 million hours of human thought.
The idea of an embryonic global culture raises questions about what will be done — and what could be done – with the extraordinarily powerful new varieties of communication made available by the digital communications revolution.
As much as anyone else of the era, Julian Assange, editor of Wikileaks, (left) exemplified the era’s revolutionary use of digital media to promote social change and bring down barriers between global cultures. Assange’s web site allowed disclosures of hundreds of thousands of low-level secrets, triggering the Arab Spring (among other things). And, as he fought the US government, he insisted that Americans live in a media bubble which prevents them from learning about the rest of the world.
In the winter of 2012, as a Republican Congress attempted to use copyright law to start closing down international connections and freedom of the web, a general strike took place — Google, Wikipedia and thousands of other sites simply shut down for a day, and the right-wingers had to back down, for the time being.
Said Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia: The people are the media. Contrast this with Marshall McLuhan’s deterministic “medium is the message” theory. It’s not that one is wrong and the other right. Rather, Wales’ statement can be seen as a milepost in a recognition that media technology has come full circle: from top-down narrowly deterministic structures to the emerging socially constructed model of a global culture.
“We are rapidly entering into a new world of hyperconnectivity, said Carl Bildtis foreign minister of Sweden, in a July 5, 2012 New York Times op-ed.
“We cannot accept that the Internet’s content should be limited or manipulated depending on the flavor-of-the-month of political leaders. Only by securing access to the open and global Internet will true development take place.
The governments of the Human Rights Council now for the first time have confirmed that freedom of expression applies fully to the Internet. A global coalition for a global and open Internet has been formed… The challenge now is to put these words into action to make sure that people all over the world can use and utilize the power of connectivity without having to fear for their safety. This work is far from over.
- Will the creative frontier of the internet be closed off by the new “app” economy? Check out Zittrain’s book The internet and how to stop it, and also the related blog, for an idea of what might be going wrong — or right.
- Imagine global digital culture a century from now. How will regular people communicate? How will governments deal with traditional cultures that want freedom but are wary of foreign influences?
- Does Wikileaks deserve the same First Amendment / Article 19 protection as traditional journalism organizations? Why or why not?
- In ““Looking for the Mouse,” Clay Shirkey is asked by a TV reporter where people get the time to participate in Wikipedia. He’s incredulous. No one who works in television gets to ask that question, he says. Why do you suppose that is?
- What is a cognitive surplus? How does it relate to the idea of “monk power” we discussed in Chapter 1?
- Wikisecrets: The Inside Story of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and the largest intelligence breach in US history. Frontline video. Public Broadcasting Service. The video was controversial among some hackers, who disliked the emphasis on Manning’s personal issues and protested by hacking the PBS web site in May, 2011.
- Digital Nation — PBS documentary on activism and the effects of digital media on society.
- Democracy Now talks about the legacy of Aaron Swartz and Robert McChesney’s new book Digital Disconnect. April 12, 2013. “Americans pay far more for cellphones, they pay far more for broadband wired access, than any other comparable country in the world, and we get much worse service. It has nothing to do with the technology. It has nothing to do with, quote-unquote, “economics.” It has everything to do with corrupt policy making and the power of these firms.” — McChensey’s comments sound very similar to those made about the Western Union telegraph monopoly a century ago.
- Blodget, Henry. “Interview with Jimmy Wales: How Wikipedia Became a Monster,” Business Insider, May 3, 2010.
- Wikipedia editing – A Virginia Tech graduate student’s work was trivial and promotional? — Washington Post, May 30, 2011
- More Wikipedia editors needed — PC World, August 7, 2011
- Like Wikipedia, volunteers created the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The best of these volunteers is profiled in The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.
- Creative commons licenses provide simple, standardized alternatives to the “all rights reserved” paradigm of traditional copyright.
- Civic Technologies and the Future of the Internet – Jonathan Zittrain
- Information technology is not linear – Ray Kurzweil
- Tweckling – Heckling by tweet
- Craig Newmark talks about Craigslist
- Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006).
- Four “titans” (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) are racing to be king of the digital age, says Jia Lynn Yang of the Washington Post, Aug. 16, 2011.
- Fast Company: The women of Twitter Vogue magazine, March 2012.
- Oliver Boyd-Barnett, News agencies in the turbulent era of the Internet (Government of Catalonia, 2010). Available as free e-book. European perspective. Translated from Spanish.
- A universal library is (finally) within reach, says Pamela Samuelson. Copyright law poses considerable challenges, but any barriers to mass digitization of the world’s books can — and should be — overcome.
- Latin America’s information revolution reflects new-found empowerment. Alfredo Corchado, Dallas News, June 3, 2012
Free software versus tethered applications
- The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it by Jonathan Zittrain
- Brown, Peter. “Free software is a Matter of Liberty, Not Price,” Free Software Foundation, December 27, 2010.
- Kulash, Jr, Damian. “Whose Tube?” The New York Times, February 19, 2010, A17.
- iPad isn’t the solution for magazines, Rolling Stone publisher says.
- Apple’s Darker Side – A revealing article from China.net about pollution and poisonings in the Apple supply chain
- Apple iPhone Games for Children Rack up Shocking Bills – Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2011
International free speech / technology issues
- Scheeres, Julia. “Lech Walesa: Tech Freedom Fighter,” Wired, June 19, 2002.
- Iran Vows to Unplug Internet – May, 2011
- Saleh, Basel. “Tunisia: IMF ‘Economic Medicine’ has resulted in Mass Poverty and Unemployment; Protest by Suicide as a Symbol of Resistance,” Center for Research on Globalization, December 31, 2010.
- Columbia University President and First Amendment scholar Lee C. Bollinger proposes an American World Service in the July/August 2011 issue of Columbia Journalism Review. “Now, with globalization well underway, it is imperative that we begin to think more systematically about how we will build and develop the concept of a free press for a new global public forum.”
- Facebook Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg derived the company’s name from the generic term “facebook,” usually a magazine of classmate mugshots, names and home towns distributed to incoming college freshmen. In August, 2011, Facebook claimed that it owns the rights to “___ book” in a lawsuit against Teachbook.
- The “Occupy Wall Street” movement relies on the rapid exchange of videos of pepper spraying, club wielding police.”Instead of being reliant on information given to the public through media channels, we are now able to instigate our own broadcasts. Immediately connected to a global audience, two YouTube videos alone are prime examples of how witness reports to scenarios like this are no longer chained to censorship or secrecy.” This is something to celebrate, says the Sacramento Bee newspaper — and something to be wary about.
- Twitter censorship policy announced January 2012 is an interesting victory for freedom of speech. Twitter’s policy and its transparency pledge with the censorship watchdog Chilling Effects “is the most thoughtful, honest and realistic policy to come out of a technology company in a long time. Even an unsympathetic reading of the new censorship policy bears that out.” So says Paul Smalera of Reuters.
- Google also adds a feature to overcome China’s search engine censorship. May 2012.
- Cat and mouse censorship game over internet mentions of dissident Cheng Guangcheng in China. Washington Post, May 1, 2012.
- Security of cyberspace - Special report by Washington Post, June 3, 2012.
- How to criticize the government on Chinese social media. Foreign Policy, June 10, 2012.
- The assumption that communication technologies will lead to freedom is foolish “iPod liberalism” says Evgeny Morozov. LA Times June 21, 2012.
- Battle for internet freedom looms in December 2012. Associated Press, June 24, 2012.
- Draconian restrictions may result from Pacific trade talks. Vancouver Sun, June 27, 2012.
- When has China blocked internet sites, and why? Washington Post Oct. 29, 2012.
- Evgeny Morozov notes that the bastion of openness and counterculture is just another bit of discreetly imposed conservatism.
- Controversy at the International Telecommunications Union in December, 2012. SF Chronicle and Bloomberg coverage. Also the LA Times weighs in. Looks like the MacBride Commission all over again.
- Reddit’s online witch hunts following Boston Marathon bombings. NYTimes, April 29, 2013.
- The right to anonymity by Bill Keller, April 29, 2013.
- A double non-sequiter about people supposedly ‘self-radicalized’ through Internet sites. Thomas Friedman, NY Times, April 27, 2013.
The Wikileaks controversy
- David Samuels, “The shameful attacks on Julian Assange,” The Atlantic magazine, Dec. 10, 2010.
- Apps, Peter. “Wikileaks Stirs Debate on Info Revolution,” Reuters, December 6, 2010.
- Why Shouldn’t Freedom of the Press apply to Wikileaks? — Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, Dec. 15, 2010.
- U.C. Berkeley forum (video) April 2011 on Wikileaks with Assange.
- Assange loses extradition appeal, June 2012.
- Why Assange applied for asylum in Ecuador, LA Times June 21, 2012. (article / video)
- SceneTap tells you what’s hot around town, how busy a bar is, the male-female ratio, and the average age. It’s all based on automatic facial recognition software. Some people think its kind of a creepy bro-tard thing.
- Google glass and Google Now are just part of the way Google is going to own your brain, says Ray Kurzweil. (OK, just kidding, but close). Marketplace, May 5, 2013.
Responsive information architecture
Civic information technologies