Public/Private Spaces: Notes on a lecture

The class today was entitled Public/Private Spaces: Pulling things together, and had the idea of summing up the physical city part of the Civic Media course.

But before we could even go forward I needed to add an update to the earlier lectures on racial segregation. The article The Average White American’s Social Network is 1% Black is fascinating and not a little sad because of its implications.

In the meantime, whites may be genuinely naive about what it’s like to be black in America because many of them don’t know any black people.  According to the survey, the average white American’s social network is only 1% black. Three-quarters of white Americans haven’t had a meaningful conversation with a single non-white person in the last six months.

The actual beginning of class was a response to the students assignment to present three arguments for and three arguments against the Internet as a Human Right. In order to locate the discussion in the context of human rights I spoke of Athenian democracy and the death of Socrates, and the progression from natural rights to convention based rights. The purpose was both to show some progression in rights development – but also to show that rights are not linear and indeed contain exceptions from those the words imply. The American Declaration of Independence (1776) talks of all men

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

but we know that this was not true. Athenian democracy included “all” people with the exception of slaves, foreigners and women. So we must see rights for what they are without mythologizing their power.

In addition they cannot seen in isolation. For example the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) came as a result of the French Revolution include many ideas that appear in similar rights documents

  • Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.
  • Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else.
  • Law is the expression of the general will
  • No punishment without law
  • Presumtion of innocence
  • Free opinions, speech & communication

The similarities are unsurprising as they emerge from international discussions on the value of individuals and a new level of thought appearing about where political power should lie.

The discussion then moved to the concept of free speech and the modern day attempts to limit speech by using the concept of civility, and interesting example of this is explained in the article Free speech, ‘civility,’ and how universities are getting them mixed up

When someone in power praises the principle of free speech, it’s wise to be on the lookout for weasel words. The phrase “I favor constructive criticism,” is weaseling. So is, “You can express your views as long as they’re respectful.” In those examples, “constructive” and “respectful” are modifiers concealing that the speaker really doesn’t favor free speech at all.

Free speech is there to protect speech we do not like to hear. We do not need protection from the nice things in life. Offending people may be a bi-product of free speech, but a bi-product that we must accept if we are to support free speech. Stephen Fry states it wonderfully:

fryAt this point we returned to the discussion of private/public spaces in the city and how these may be used. We have up until this point covered many of the major points and now it was time to move on to the more vague uses. Using Democracy and Public Space: The Physical Sites of Democratic Performance by John Parkinson we can define public as

1.Freely accessible places where ‘everything that happens can be observed by anyone’, where strangers are encountered whether one wants to or not, because everyone has free right of entry

2.Places where the spotlight of ‘publicity’ shines, and so might not just be public squares and market places, but political debating chambers where the right of physical access is limited but informational access is not.

3.‘common goods’ like clean air and water, public transport, and so on; as well as more particular concerns like crime or the raising of children that vary in their content over time and space, depending on the current state of a particular society’s value judgments.

4.Things which are owned by the state or the people in and paid for out of collective resources like taxes: government buildings, national parks in most countries, military bases and equipment, and so on.

and we can define private as:

1.Places that are not freely accessible, and have controllers who limit access to or use of that space.

2.Things that primarily concern individuals and not collectives

3.Things and places that are individually owned, including things that are cognitively ‘our own’, like our thoughts, goals, emotions, spirituality, preferences, and so on

In the discussion of Spaces we needed to get into the concept of The Tragedy of the Commons (Hardin 1968) which states that individuals all act out of self-interest and any space that isn’t regulated through private property is lost forever. This ideology has grown to mythological proportions and it was very nice to be able to use Nobel prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom to critique it:

The lack of human element in the economists assumptions are glaring but still the myth persists that common goods are not possible to sustain and that government regulation will fail. All that remains is private property. In order to have a more interesting discussion on common goods I introduced David Bollier

A commons arises whenever a given community decides that it wishes to manage a resource in a collective manner, with a special regard for equitable access, use and sustainability. It is a social form that has long lived in the shadows of our market culture, but which is now on the rise

We will be getting back to his work later in the course.

In closing I wanted to continue the problematizing the public/private discussion – in particular the concepts of private spaces in public and public spaces in private. In order to illustrate this we looked at these photos:


Just a Kiss by Shutterpal CC BY NC SA

The outdoor kiss is an intensely private moment and it has at different times and places been regulated in different manners. The use of headphones and dark glasses is also a way in which private space can be enhanced in public. These spaces are all around us and form a kind of privacy in public.

The study of these spaces is known as Proxemics: the study of nonverbal communication which Wikipedia defines as:

Prominent other subcategories include haptics (touch), kinesics (body movement), vocalics (paralanguage), and chronemics (structure of time). Proxemics can be defined as “the interrelated observations and theories of man’s use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture”. Edward T. Hall, the cultural anthropologist who coined the term in 1963, emphasized the impact of proxemic behavior (the use of space) on interpersonal communication. Hall believed that the value in studying proxemics comes from its applicability in evaluating not only the way people interact with others in daily life, but also “the organization of space in [their] houses and buildings, and ultimately the layout of [their] towns.

The discussions we have been having thus far have been about cities and the access and use of cities. How control has come about and who has the ability and power to input and change things in the city. Basically the “correct” and “incorrect” use of the technology. Since we are moving on to the public/private abilities inside our technology I wanted to show that we are more and more creating private bubbles in public via technology (our headphones and screens for example) and also bringing the public domain into our own spaces via, for example, Facebook and social networking.

We ended the class with a discussion on whether Facebook is a public or private space? If it is a private space what does it mean in relation to law enforcement and governmental bodies? If it is a public space when is it too far to stalk people? And finally what is the responsibility of the platform provider in relation to the digital space as public or private space?

here are the slides I used:

Design and Access to the City: Notes on a lecture

What is a city? Who gets to decide how it should be used and by which groups? In order to address this I began with two examples intended to demonstrate the conflict. I purposely chose not to use large scale examples.

The first example was in 2009 when the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr was arrested for breaking into his own home. Despite being able to identify himself and that it was his own address the police “…arrested, handcuffed and banged in a cell for four hours arguably the most highly respected scholar of black history in America.”

The second example was Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker being accused of shoplifting and patted down by an overzealous employee at the Milano Market on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. This latter example is interesting because the market apologized and said of the employee: “He’s a decent man, I’m sure he didn’t mean any by wrong doing, he was just doing his job” “a sincere mistake”. An interesting thing about this is that if you search the term “Forest Whitaker deli” most of the hits are for the apology and not for the action itself.

These two minor events would never had come to the attention of anyone unless they had happened to celebrities with the power to become part of the news. They demonstrate that even among sincere well meaning people there are groups thought to have less access to the city.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an excellent op-ed called The Good, Racist People , which he ends writing about the deli:

The other day I walked past this particular deli. I believe its owners to be good people. I felt ashamed at withholding business for something far beyond the merchant’s reach. I mentioned this to my wife. My wife is not like me. When she was 6, a little white boy called her cousin a nigger, and it has been war ever since. “What if they did that to your son?” she asked.

And right then I knew that I was tired of good people, that I had had all the good people I could take.

Following this introduction the lecture moved on to demonstrate the power of maps. I began with a description of the events leading up to Dr John Snow identifying the Broad Street Pump as the cause for the Soho Cholera outbreak of 1854.

Dr Snow did not believe in the miasma (bad air) theory as the cause of cholera and in order to prove that the cause was connected to the public water pump on broad street he began mapping out the cholera victims on a map. They formed a cluster around the pump.

pumpWith the help of this illustration he was able to show that the disease was local and get the pump handle removed. The cholera cases decreased rapidly from that point.

The immediate cause of the outbreak was the introduction of human waste into the water system – most probably from a mother washing an infected child’s diapers. But the fundamental reason for the huge death count was the lack of sewer and sanitation systems in this poorer area of the city. By insisting on the miasma theory the city could claim to be free from responsibility.

In the following part of the lecture I wanted to discuss how cities can maintain segregation and inequality of services despite the ways in which the rules are presented as fair and non-biased. In order to do this I used a list of maps demonstrating cities segregation by race and ethnicity created by Eric Fischer.

One dot for each 500 residents. Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other. Images are licensed CC BY SA. There are several maps of interest and they are well worth studying. Here I will only present Philadelphia and Chicago:

Chicago: One dot for each 500 residents. Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other.

Chicago: One dot for each 500 residents. Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other.

Philadelphia: One dot for each 500 residents. Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other.

Philadelphia: One dot for each 500 residents. Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other.

As we are in Philadelphia I also included a map of household income (Demographics of Philadelphia)

 Median household income in Center City and surrounding sections, 2000 Census.

Median household income in Center City and surrounding sections, 2000 Census.

At this point I moved the discussion to the distinction between public and private spaces. I used definitions of these from Wikipedia

A public space is a social space that is generally open and accessible to people. Roads (including the pavement), public squares, parks and beaches are typically considered public space.

To a limited extent, government buildings which are open to the public, such as public libraries are public spaces, although they tend to have restricted areas and greater limits upon use.

Although not considered public space, privately owned buildings or property visible from sidewalks and public thoroughfares may affect the public visual landscape, for example, by outdoor advertising.

As the distinctions between private/public will be discussed in depth in a future lecture I left this as a relatively vague discussion and went into the problems of two of our rights as practiced in the “public space”

Free Speech: Not wanting to delve into the theory of this fascinating space I jumped straight into the heart of the discussion with a quote from Salman Rushdie: “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist” The point being that we don’t need protection to conform but we do need it to evolve. 

For this lecture I brought up outdoor advertising. This is an activity which is globally dominated by one corporation: The Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings is probably the biggest controller of outdoor communication in the world. They have the ability to decide which messages are transmitted and which are not. They have accepted advertising for fashion brands which transmit harmful body images and even brands which have been accused of glorifying gang rape. For a look at this disturbing trend in advertising see 15 Recent Ads That Glorify Sexual Violence Against Women.

The messages being pushed out on billboards can arguably seen as a one-sided participation of the public debate. Changing messages (adbusting) or even correcting willfully false information on billboards is seen as vandalism. As a demonstration that something can be done I showed a clip of a report about the clean city law, where the city of Sao Paulo has forbidden outdoor advertising.

However, when Baltimore in 2013 attempted to introduce a billboard tax Clear Channel Outdoor argued that billboards should be protected as free speech by the First Amendment and this tax would therefore be a limitation of the corporations human rights.

In order to demonstrate the right of assembly I used the demonstrations at Wall Street where the desire to protest was supported (in theory) by Mayor Bloomberg

“people have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it.”

Despite this sentiment the parks of New York close (even the ones without gates) at dusk or 1 am. This prevents demonstrators staying overnight. In order to circumvent this and continue the protests the demonstrators went to the privately owned Zuccotti Park where they could stay overnight. Eventually the protestors where dispersed when it was argued that the conditions were unsanitary.

Health hazard! by Seema Krishnakumar CC by nc sa

Health hazard! by Seema Krishnakumar CC by nc sa

The slides I used are here:


Limiting the Open Society: notes from a lecture

Today I was presenting on the FSCONS track of the GoOpen conference in Oslo and the topic for my talk was Limiting the Open Society: Regulation by proxy

To set the stage for my talk I began by asking the question why free speech was important. This was closely followed by a secondary question asking whether or not anyone was listening.

The point for beginning with this question was to re-kindle the listeners interest in free speech and also to wake the idea that the concept of free speech maybe is something which belongs in the past a remnant of a lost analog age which should be seen as a quaint time – but not relevant today.

Naturally it was not possible to present a full set of articles on the reasons for why free speech is important during a 20 minute presentation but I could not help picking up three arguments (with a side comment asking whether anyone could imagine a politician saying free speech was unimportant).

The main arguments were
John Stuart Mill’s truth argument presented in On Liberty (1869) from which this quote is central:

“However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth”

Basically Mill’s argument can be broken down into four parts:

  1. The oppressed may represent the truth
  2. Without criticism we are left with dead dogma
  3. Opinion without debate meaningless
  4. Deviant opinions may be unaccepted truth

The second argument I presented was from Lee Bollinger’s The Tolerant Society: Freedom of Speech and Extremist Speech in America (1986)

Bollinger argues that the urge to suppress disagreeable speech is part of a need to suppress all ideas and behavior that threaten social stability. While Mill argues that it is important to support speech because it maybe right Bollinger argues that habits of tolerance in all its forms (including speech) are important to combat paternalism.

“…the free speech principle involves a special act of carving out one area of social interaction for extraordinary self-restraint, the purpose of which is to develop and demonstrate a social capacity to control feelings evoked by a host of social encounters.”

The final argument I presented was one of positive law – free speech is important because the law says it is important. The high point of this argument can be seen as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which created an international understanding of the importance of rights (including speech).

After this introduction I presented the concepts in an historical background. Again I needed to be brief so I could not really go into detail. I jumped straight into the period 300 years ago when the discussion on the rights of man in Europe was at a high point. The fear of censorship in advance (imprimatur) or punishment after the fact was of great interest. The results of these discussions were documents like The Rights of Man and the Citizen presented after the French revolution, the United States Declaration of Independence and the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act of 1766.

The problems with these documents and the regulatory acts which followed where that they presented potential rights but did nothing to ensure access to communications media. In fact the communications media became ever more centralized and access was granted to a more and more limited group of (similarly minded) people. The negative aspect of this situation were (1) centralized media can easily be controlled and (2) allowing small group access means that the individual members have to conform to remain in the in-group.

To re-enforce the concept of in-group and out-group I showed an image of the speaker’s corner in London where any individual may speak without being harassed its not a legal right even if it seems to be an established practice. Speaker’s corner is sometimes seen as an example of openness but in reality it is proof of the failure of our ability to speak openly anywhere.

Then we moved quickly along to the Internet as an example of where a technology was developed that made personal mass communication available to a wider audience.

The exciting thing about the Internet is that it carries within it freedom as a side effect of its creation. This freedom was developed by common agreement (of a homogeneous group) into the open end-to-end, packet switching “liberal” ideology that we experienced in the early days of technology.

Naturally the problem with any idea that is developed under a consensus is that any use, concept, idea or speech which falls outside the consensus is easily suppressed and lost. But more on this later.

In the early days we were overly optimistic and believed texts such as John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

But naturally this was not going to last since the freedom we relied on was in reality a bi-product of corporate activity.

Our reliance on technology is a reliance on services created and provided mainly by corporate actors. And corporate actors have different priorities. It’s not about individual goodwill but it is about profit. Milton Friedman wrote in Capitalism and Freedom (1962)

There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…

It is not evil for companies to be all about profit but if there ever is a clash between individual freedom and profit then the corporation has an obligation to focus on profit at the cost of freedom.

At this stage at the lecture I shifted on to the problem of censorship. First I addressed the issue of self-censorship and used a quote by George Orwell on the topic.

Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.

It is very difficult for us to know that we are censoring ourselves.

The next problem is the fact that even if we have something to say this does not mean that there is anyone who will (or can) listen. Basically we are lost in crowds.

These first two hindrances to communication are inevitable but they also create a bias against speech and the spread of ideas. From this point I began to address issues that can be (and should be) addressed.

The first issue was affordances. I showed the image of by Yumiko Hayakawa of the ‘Anti-Homeless’ park bench. And as I always do I asked the audience to spot the ethical problem in the image. The problem is that the bench discriminates among users by allowing only certain types of use. People with weak legs (old people?) struggle to use this bench, no people will loiter on this bench, and naturally no homeless people can sleep on this bench.

image from Yumiko Hayakawa essay Public Benches Turn ‘Anti-Homeless’ (also recommend Design with Intent)

Without engaging in a wider discussion the park authority can implement regulation without rules. No law expelling homeless people is necessary and therefore no legal review is ever carried out.

On the topic of affordances I brought up the German engineer problem. Here is the story behind the creation of SMS messaging (LA Times)

Alone in a room in his home in Bonn, Germany, Friedhelm Hillebrand sat at his typewriter, tapping out random sentences and questions on a sheet of paper.

As he went along, Hillebrand counted the number of letters, numbers, punctuation marks and spaces on the page. Each blurb ran on for a line or two and nearly always clocked in under 160 characters.

That became Hillebrand’s magic number — and set the standard for one of today’s most popular forms of digital communication: text messaging.

“This is perfectly sufficient,” he recalled thinking during that epiphany of 1985, when he was 45 years old. “Perfectly sufficient.”

Since then Twitter was developed from SMS and therefore we see how a engineer speaking German is today controlling the way in which we communicate today.

Another form of censorship is the whole problem of the chilling effect of law when it’s law is applied in situations where it has the effect of limiting speech – even if the purpose of the law was something completely different.

As a final form of censorship I spoke about the negative effects of End-User License Agreements (EULA). Many of the platforms upon which we depend for our communication have demanded of us that we agree to terms of use which we may not understand or which may have changed dramatically since we last read them. The result is that users are stuck in a perpetually weak situation.

So what’s really going on? Why doesn’t the state act or react to the erosion of our rights. These rights which are apparently so fundamental and important.

Well in part its lack of knowledge. Many states do not know the problems we are facing. The second part is that these are contractual agreements and the state is concerned about intervening in agreements (between consenting parties) and finally – and more ominously – the state benefits from the system.

States are able to stand tall and use words like rights, democracy, speech without limiting or censoring. They don’t have to. What the state does is they require acts (like data retention or surveillance) carried out by our service providers. If the state needs anything it can then collect it from the providers. The good news is that the state can claim to have clean hands. This is regulation by proxy.

So what can be done? Here I presented three strategies:

First, keep focused; remember what free speech is for. A second quote from George Orwell, this time from his preface of Animal Farm:

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

Second a demand that the state should end regulation by proxy and return to its own purpose. And the protection of citizen’s rights should include limiting the rights of actors. Speech on any medium should be protected – not only from the acts of the state.

Thirdly. The third was not really a new suggestion but more of an alternative. If the state cannot protect our speech then it should declare free speech as a thing of the past a remnant of a bygone analog age. This will not help much – but at least it will stop the hypocrisy.

Censorship in EU (Malta)

The tiny island of Malta rarely pops up in my rss reader but when it does I usually pay the news more attention than it deserves. Malta is a tiny island with about 400 000 inhabitants and like most islands is fairly big on introspection. What makes Malta special (for me) is the fact that I spent the first 15 years of my life there so I have experienced the narrow mindedness first hand. Don’t get me wrong the Maltese are friendly and welcoming its just when it comes to politics they are positively rooted in the dark ages. Today an article in the Guardian did come up via my rss and it began

What if there were an EU country where abortion, divorce, and blasphemy in public were all still illegal? Where freedom of expression was limited to saying nothing critical of the Catholic church, nothing that the government could call “obscene”, and nothing against the few noble families who all but controlled it? Surely, given Turkey’s problems, Croatia’s lack of membership, and Iceland’s still pending application, such a place would be expelled? Welcome to Malta.

Of course size matters but it is strange that the island is able to maintain these politics within the framework for the European Union – we should not really be surprised as the EU is still fundamentally an economic alliance and not a organisation founded in human rights. But still Malta is pushing the envelope

In the last year, the Maltese government has banned the play Stitching from being performed, has arrested and put students on trial for writing and publishing an “obscene” story, and has prevented the artist Alexander Stankovski from exhibiting paintings which contained nudity. The updated criminal code will make public obscenity or blasphemy in public punishable by up to a year in jail, even if the words or sentiments are part of a work of fiction, theatre, or art.

What if this had been a Muslim country behaving like this? Wouldn’t the criticism be louder? Is the lack of energy spent in combating blasphemy laws  a form of lazy racism? All over Europe countries are going crazy about the Muslim dress. Clothes! At the same time we accept that we have laws against blasphemy! We are concerned about women’s freedoms and the oppression of religion and yet we support certain religions by silencing criticism.

How is it that Malta is the way it is? The historic and geographic isolation of the island has enabled it to maintain its bizarre positions. In the Guardian article on the censorship of a short story O’Mahony writes a paragraph that neatly sums up the situation:

The Maltese press covered the issue, but in a factual tone. A recent interview with another Maltese writer, Frans Sammut, in the Malta Independent, allowed him the space to say he agreed with the ban of the work. However, with editorials that celebrate the Pope’s stance on paedophiles operating within the Catholic church, one cannot expect the media to help artists that write about blasphemy and their perceptions of the church’s misogyny. Self-censorship is rife on an island where everyone knows everyone else, but general opinion seems to suggest that writers were simply not taken seriously enough before the events of last year to ever fear reproach for what they produced.

The right to blaspheme

On March 26 the United Nations Human Rights Council voted yes a resolution that makes blasphemy a serious offense against human dignity. Unsurprisingly the countries behind the proposal are the same countries that view blasphemy as a serious crime and punish it with long criminal sentences, corporal punishment or death.  The Economist has a good article that explains why free speech should protect individuals not religions.

Jarrar free speech t-shirt case settled

In 2006 the Transportation Security Administration and JetBlue demanded Raed Jarrar to sit at the back of a 2006 flight from New York to Oakland because his shirt read “We Will Not Be Silent” in English and Arabic (According to a civil rights lawsuit) one TSA official commented that the Arabic lettering was akin to wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, “I am a robber.”

As a protest you can now buy t-shirts with the text – “I am not a terrorist” written in Arabic – all profits will be sent to the ACLU. Get them here.

TSA officials and JetBlue Airways are paying $240,000 to settle (.pdf) a discrimination lawsuit against a District of Columbia man who, as a condition of boarding a domestic flight, was forced to cover his shirt that displayed Arabic writing (via Wired).

For other examples with free expressions and clothing see Are we losing out right to dissent? and Are we secure yet?

Open debate, free speech & copying

On Thursday last week a group of Swedish artists and writers spoke up in an op-ed on the topic of file sharing. Their motives and point of view are clear. Their timing is also to act out in support of the coming parliamentary vote that will create a harsher environment around illegal file sharing.

The op-ed begins with the idea that they [the artists/writers] had been too silent in their opposition to file sharing. The reason they state for this silence is the fear of “hate attacks from notorious file sharers” (my translation from: “hatattackerna från notoriska fildelare”).

This is an incredibly interesting position. These artists/writers are public figures and as such have a position from which they can easily publicise any and all opinions they may have. They are the media elite – when they talk reports listen. And yet they are asking for sympathy from the public since they are the victims of a group which does not have the same platform. The very fact that they have written and published an op-ed in one of Sweden’s largest and most important newspaper should suffice to prove this point.

This false humility, this wringing of hands, this wearing of sack-cloth and ashes is irritating but it could also be seen as a rhetorical move. Even so, the position of the poor-little-me-I-am-just-a-pop-star attitude is patently false and more provocative than they seem to understand.

The group of artists/writers who signed the op-ed seem to desire a world where they have the ear of the media, the platform to publish and to be discussed (in polite terms) but are not ready to meet criticism from the broader public – from those who they are selling to!

Whether it is culture or whether it is hamburgers the seller must be able to accept the criticism and choices of the buyers. I am a vegetarian and I will criticize any attempts meat sellers make to portray happy livestock. If an artist/writer makes an uniformed/stupid statement from the platform of fame and position of importance they have achieved, then I have the right to criticize them from below – without this being referred to as a hate-attack. If you speak out in public you must expect a reply. You may not like that reply but if you are unable to cope with the reply then you should not have entered the public arena.

This post was going to be about the content of the opt-ed but as you may have noticed I got stuck on the introduction and could not move beyond. So I take the easy way out and quote from the Industrial IT Group and a blog post they entitle: Stupidity in the age of information

…digital products are, by definition, open for being copied. This is the essence of the notion of digital. While some see this as a curse many of us see this as a blessing. Reinforcing laws surrounding filesharing comes at a prize and I see it as neither possible nor desireable to fight filesharing.

To this I would just like to add the schizofrenic position of encouraging and praising the importance is consumerism through digital gadgets and widgets while attempting to limit their use…

To the politicians about to vote on the coming legal proposals, a question: When you give your child an 120GB ipod – what are you expecting that they will do with it?