I Pledge Allegiance to the Internet

// Posted by on 02/23/2014 (8:04 PM)

In previous weeks, we’ve discussed how technology and the internet provides a global “third space,” an amorphous sphere for interaction between strangers from all over the world, without any real recognition of traditional nation state boundaries. We’ve discussed how the use of technology can challenge traditional nation states and their governments through hacking, leaking information and fueling IRL assembles, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement. We’ve also discussed the developing news surrounding Edward Snowden, and how this reflects the limited control that nation states have over the “third space.” With this new age tension between nation states and the “third space,” there comes yet another question: who will users/citizens align themselves with?

In Mark Poster’s Information Please, Poster describes a new kind of citizen; a citizen to the “third space”; a netizen. Using such a governmentally influenced term to describe an internet user sets up a clear divide between an individual’s relationship to the internet, and his or her relationship to a country. It implies a certain dichotomy, that a person can only align themselves with one entity or the other.

This idea is further emphasized with our reading on Stuxnet this week. As Symantec was trying to decode the complex and sophisticated malware that is Stuxnet, technical directors began to realize that the malware could be much more than just a technological nuisance. “Stuxnet could be the work of a government cyberarmy,” Kim Zetter writes in her Wired article. “The researchers risked tampering with a covert U.S. government operation.”

Once the governments of traditional nation states were possibly involved, the directors of Symantec had to question their allegiance between a specific country, or the global “third space” that technology provides. This has become a bigger and bigger issue as technology has developed. Both the nation state and the “third space” pose an inherent threat to one another, and a huge part of the threat stems from that fact that an individual can chose which sphere he or she wants to devote themselves to. In the case of Symantec, they “felt no patriotic duty to preserves [Stuxnet’s] activity. ‘We’re not beholden to a nation,” [technical director of Symantec Eric Chien] said. ‘We’re a multinational, private company protecting customers.’”

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Rachel said...

I think what’s really interesting about the Poster/Stuxnet setup is that, on the one hand, Poster seems to really be advocating for these netizens, in a positive way. And the Symantec team seems to hold a pretty similar belief set. But is it really a good mentality towards the internet? I’d love to hear how you feel about the issue personally.

// 02/23/2014 at 8:37 pm