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Internet: The Next World War?

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (11:35 PM)

My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a… Read more


My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a simple question, the answer is rather loaded. Interestingly enough, the article brought most of what has been discussed on this blog full circle.

The question over who will control the internet has come to the forefront of any debate regarding the internet. At the end of 2012, there will be a negotiation between 193 nations to revise a UN treaty pertaining to the Internet.

“The War for the Internet was inevitable—a time bomb built into its creation.”

There is no doubt that the question of control would eventually arise. However, it seems that no one is ready to answer it on a global scale now that the question has come knocking. The article clearly explains that the “Internet was established on a bedrock of trust: trust that people were who they said they were, and trust that information would be handled according to existing social and legal norms. That foundation of trust crumbled as the Internet expanded.” The issue of trust arises because of four crises regarding the internet: sovereignty, piracy and intellectual property, privacy and security. From PIPA to SOPA to Anonymous to MegaShare and WikiLeaks, the initial trust which the internet was founded on has begun to crumble.

Thus, the world of the internet lies in the midst of two polarized notions: Order v. Disorder and Control v. Chaos. The article explains that “the forces of Order want to superimpose existing, pre-digital power structures and their associated notions of privacy, intellectual property, security, and sovereignty onto the Internet. The forces of Disorder want to abandon those rickety old structures and let the will of the crowd create a new global culture, maybe even new kinds of virtual “countries.” At their most extreme, the forces of Disorder want an Internet with no rules at all.” What would the Internet be like with no rules at all? Would it function? Would the users of the Internet truly be able to self-govern? Could the entire Internet run like Wikipedia, where every contributor checks and ultimately balances every other contributor? Or is such a notion idealistic?

When thinking about the Internet and thus, control over the internet, why the internet was created must also be address. The Internet was intended to deal with a military problem, it was not intended to does what it does today. Vint Cerf a “father of the Internet” and the “Internet Evangelist” (his actual title at Google) along with Robert Kahn created the TCP/IP protocol which allows computers and networks all over the world to talk to one another. However, the development was initially created to help the military, not for you or I. Since it was designed to be undetectable in terms of a center, the Internet has no center.

Internet has no center

The testament to the nonexistence of a center for the internet was the creation of ICANN in 1998. ICANN “signaled that the Internet would be something akin to global patrimony, not an online version of American soil.” When thinking about the Internet, many people, especially Americans, think of the Internet as an extension of American culture. While American culture is widely dispersed throughout the Internet, it is not the only cultural that is shared. There exists a multiculturalism through the Internet that does not make it merely an online version of America. This perhaps is the reason why the Internet economy was grabbed globally. The Internet economy was not just an economy for American, it was an economy for everyone. However, with a shared Internet economy, nations lost old ideals of governance.

While it seems that the battle for control is driven by corporate ambitions, the real war is driven by governments. Cerf explains that “If you think about protecting the population and observing our conventional freedoms, the two [the Internet and Government] are real­ly very much in tension.”

The DefCon Hackers Conference intended to bridge the gap between hackers and the government. Jeff Moss (or Dark Tangent), DefCon’s founder, uses DefCon to promote conversation between the Internet’s forces of Order and Disorder. Moss has become the go-between who translates his subculture’s concerns to the culture at large, and vice versa. Each year, increasing numbers of law-enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel attend Def Con. This is one unique way that the bridge between the world of the Net and the world of government have successfully and peacefully (without war) converged.

Among the things that are explained by Moss are the nature of hackers. Collective hackers, like Anonymous work as a hive. There allegiance is to the hive above all else. It is not to a government or corporation. Such a notion of a hive speaks directly to Jane McGonigal’s belief in the power of the hive. Perhaps the power of the hive is the true power of the internet. The truth that allegiances have shifted from nations to hives.

 “Everybody always calls it rebuilding the airplane in flight. We can’t stop and reboot the Internet.”

Since the internet can’t be stopped, its challenges must be addressed. Vanity Fair suggests that there will be three issues on the table at the negotiations in Dubai at the end of the year: taxation (a “per click” levy on international Internet traffic), data privacy and cyber-security (no more anonymity) and Internet management (global information-security “code of conduct”).  The article suggests that anonymity has contributed to, if not created, almost every problem at issue in the War for the Internet. Is anonymity really the issues? Would we need control if our real names were attached to over Internet habits? Vanity Fair suggests that currently “the task at hand is finding some way to square the circle: a way to have both anonymity and authentication—and therefore both generative chaos and the capacity for control—without absolute insistence on either.” Perhaps the greatest challenge with the internet is that there is no real absolutes. Black and white issues are much easier to address than those with shades of grey.

Many believe that the Domain Name Systems, the Internet’s only central feature, must be shielded from government control however, through organizations like ICANN governments will still be involved without controlling it. Arguably, the most important issue when debating the control over the internet is the need to preserve “network neutrality”. One thing that many agree on: The Internet is open to everyone, service providers cannot discriminate and all applications and content moves at the same speed– this should not change. If the Internet is one thing, it ought to be fair.

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The Evolution of the Public Sphere

// Posted by on 02/17/2012 (2:49 AM)

The public sphere is the community in a society where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.(Compliments of Wikipedia) This sphere extends back to the beginnings of ancient Greece… Read more


The public sphere is the community in a society where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.(Compliments of Wikipedia) This sphere extends back to the beginnings of ancient Greece in 8th century BC, it was called the agora, Greek for ‘gathering place’. The agora was the center of town and is where the culture of the city existed. Displays of arts, athleticism, spiritual activities and politics were all taking place here. However, in the political realm only free-born male land-owners were allowed to participate. As the agora formed into a marketplace rather than a place solely for free men, others were certainly apt to hear the discussions and rulings of the king or council but they could do nothing about it.

The town hall is the place in which the governing of a city takes place. These buildings often house a more formal sphere of elected officials but it is still a gathering place for the community equipped with libraries and space for entertainment. In colonial America this was the center of democracy. Once more, land-owning, white men came together to discuss and ideally solve the political problems of their community.

-Coffee shops and taverns in cities and towns of all time periods have been a place to gather and discuss politics and town issues. Before technology was around this was the only way to gather information outside of one’s personal bubble, if you will. Travelers could be key parts of this by bringing in news from other places.


Even something as cliche as a barbershop has been a source of political information and influence. And for most of history it was the free, rich, white men with the ability to inform himself and others as well as the ability to take action if they saw fit. However, we have seen throughout the 20th century the expansion of the political sphere to include the apparent spheres of all races, religions, and genders. And here we are, with a growing sphere of voices and with it, a new and constantly adapting medium with which to influence politics, the internet.

The internet is the agora of today’s political influences, or influencers I should say. It started with the counterculture movement, we saw the first blog space in the Well, throw in a decade of hacker innovation, and some dorm room ideas that spawn into things like facebook and you get the feedback systems of today that can organize things like the Arab spring, some truly volatile riots, or an occupy wall street movement. It can completely revamp the way political polls are taken, instead of cold calling and letters through good ole’ snail mail, we have access to numerous surveys online that take in the same information in virtually no time at all!



In his book Information Please author Mark Poster argues that this age’s public sphere really isn’t like the public sphere’s of old because of the personalities one creates online in what Poster calls the digital public sphere. “My argument is not that the digital public sphere destabilizes the full presence of face-to-face meetings but that it constructs the subject though the specificity of its medium in a way different from oral or written or broadcast models of self constitution…The digital self that participates in the Internet public spheres is different from the individual speaking in the agora or the coffee shop, as well as from the representative of individuals speaking in democratic institutions like parliaments.”(41)

In essence, Poster is saying that the person we create on the net is different from who we are in reality but, the digital public sphere still has the capability to influence political actions on the part of our representatives. Case and point being the outcry against PIPA and SOPA only weeks ago. Ultimately, the public sphere has been a highly influential space for those who were allowed to participate and eventually for those who chose to participate in it. The digital public sphere allows this generation to take that influence to an entirely new level that I don’t think we fully understand. It is very easy to express our opinions and to share them on a large scale with our friends and with our representatives. How far we take that ability I think will be revealed in the coming presidential election as we weed out the Republican candidates and take stock of how influential the internet is at publicizing where our candidates stand and why we should vote for them.

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Must Love The Internet

// Posted by on 02/04/2012 (7:35 PM)

When I decided to write a blog about this I asked my friends why they loved the internet? Being a bunch of college kids the most frequent response had something to do with how easy it was to look something… Read more


When I decided to write a blog about this I asked my friends why they loved the internet? Being a bunch of college kids the most frequent response had something to do with how easy it was to look something up be it the definition of caprice, a plot summary, or a long forgotten formula from our days of geometry. People love the internet for many many reasons but most of them boil down into 2 categories; a quick source of information and as a means for communication. Honestly, how can one not love the internet? It has brought us countless innovations in technology simply by allowing people to tinker with it (Spacewar and Kinect hacks). And who can say no to things like facebook and icanhascheezburger?

This generation has grown up with an increasingly easy ability to log onto the internet and do things that range from simply checking an email account to being inspired and creating a website or company of one’s own. Take Jonathan Harris for example, after noticing how people leave their mark on the internet through sites like twitter and facebook he decided to create a program that would save the feelings of people as they post it on the internet from all over the world asking himself what stories they would tell?
Kind of remarkable how we can all be connected within one program, I wonder if people like Stewart Brand, who saw and was instrumental to the idea behind all of our technology being developed out of the Counterculture movement, smile, and think ‘well done.’ The world is more connected than it has ever been all because of this nifty thing called the world wide web and the easy access most of us have to it. I just finished the book From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner, it describes how the philosophies and motives that led to the Counterculture movement influenced the development of the internet. It is a fascinating story and I certainly never connected the internet to the Countercultural movement prior to my reading but he ended with the argument that we aren’t quite living out that idea yet. A key idea from counterculturalists and the makers of the internet was that by being connected to each other there would be no need for the government, that we would bring about a totally egalitarian society. Obviously this has not occurred, and with things like SOPA and PIPA hanging in the air one wonders if this idea would ever come to fruition, or if it is a good idea in the first place? But as Harris’ work suggests we are all more alike and connected on more levels than we even realize, so maybe there is a chance that something like the internet could bring the peoples of the world together. But, in true cliche form, only time will tell. Meanwhile we use what we have and send our emails, write our papers, and post our statuses to facebook and twitter.

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Does the entertainment industry have reason to complain?

// Posted by on 01/20/2012 (11:58 PM)

The backlash over SOPA/PIPA is nothing new, however it seems to be the most potent protest that internet copyright laws have seen. To fully understand what the entertainment industry is asking it would seem logical to mention and explain the… Read more


The backlash over SOPA/PIPA is nothing new, however it seems to be the most potent protest that internet copyright laws have seen. To fully understand what the entertainment industry is asking it would seem logical to mention and explain the current copyright laws. Laws include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and the No Electronic Theft Act

The DMCA says

  • It is a civil offense if you even try to bypass copyright devices
  • Harsher penalties for copyright infractions
  • Illegal to make technologies capable of pirating videos (even if that is not the intention of the device)
  • Holds users responsible, not Internet Service Providers(ISP)
    • However, the ISP must immediately block access to the content in question. Otherwise they can be held responsible


  • ISPs will also be held accountable for what their users post
  • If copyrighted information is sent your access to the internet could be cancelled
  • To prevent the above monitoring of those who purchase copyrighted material will be increased
  • Purchased content under copyright cannot be shared with anyone since you are the only one who paid for it.
  • Applies in the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.


  • Allows for criminal prosecution of individuals who have infringed on a copyright regardless of whether or not it has been used for financial gain. (5 years in prison/$250,000 in fees)

Stop Online Piracy Act/Protect IP Act

  • Anyone found streaming copyrighted content without permission 10 or more times within six months should face up to five years in prison.
  • Websites could be sued for “enabling or facilitating” piracy. Which is where the risk of an entire website being shut down is found because it contains a link to a suspected site.
  • Advertisers could be outlawed from doing business with alleged copyright infringers. SOPA also calls for search engines to remove infringing sites from their results, PIPA does not include this
  • Outlaw sites from containing information about how to access blocked sites.

So, the internet changing as we know it may not be such an outlandish claim. The interesting thing is that most of the entertainment company’s copyright issues are with websites run in foreign countries. Call me crazy but I don’t think our laws apply in foreign countries making all of this a moot point in the first place. Granted, theft in any case needs to be dealt with but these laws are the wrong way to go about it as puts our freedom of speech at too great a risk. Plus, the legal actions to be taken when copyright is infringed upon, are already quite effective at both removing content and punishing those who broke the law they just need to be enforced, megaupload being a prime example. It may be frank to say but, it seems that the entertainment industry needs to suck it up and stick with the protective laws they already have and leave the freedom of the internet alone.

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// Posted by on 01/17/2012 (8:16 AM)






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