In a continuing discussion (original & response & reply) on the battles over Internet regulation. Both Nicklas & I are taking points from the past and drawing lines into the future, while taking into consideration the changes created by new technologies. In his last post Nicklas summed it up beautifully:
But as technology becomes more and more powerful, the control over technology will slowly converge with control over people.
Actually for me, control over technology has always been about control over people. Control over technology alone is unimportant. But Nicklas’ point is that our technology is creeping deeper into our lives and minds and therefore control over this technology will not only control the bodies but also the minds of the populous.
The point where we disagree is where we are turning at the moment. For Nicklas
The thing that sometimes worries me is that the alternative is not the status quo. It is not tinkering with the net as is. Because the net will continue to evolve and technology will make us even more powerful. The second time around the alternative to Barlow is not Lessig or even Wu&Goldsmith. It is Solzhenitsyn.
The thing is that Solzhenitsyn is too “easily” seen and eventually resisted. I fear a world where the alternative is Rupert Murdoch an intelligent and powerful man who happily(?) feeds the world Fox news and other trash – knowing that by entertaining us with garbage he controls us and our incomes. Increasingly I think we do not need totalitarian states to control us, its much cheaper to feed us garbage, entertain us with varying levels of porn and gossip and debase politics into punchlines. When the majority is busy with this, the minorities of protesters will not have the power to engage us into major social change.
As an aside: I like the fact that online regulation retains the cyber prefix. It’s dated but ties nicely back to the period when the question was still hotly debated.
While Rupert Murdoch keeps threatening the world that he will move all his media behind paywalls it is time to recall the fascinating truth about information: If it ain’t online & open it may as well be dead. If it cannot be found via Google it may as well not exist. I know that this is shallow and that it fails to take into account quality print media but then again – it doesn’t matter how great you are if nobody has ever heard of you.
Encyclopaedia Brittanica had an excellent market lead, brilliant trademark and high quality product. After the web they began to die. After Wikipedia who cares?
One of the oldest online free journals that keep producing, providing & pushing excellent content is First Monday. Authors don’t have to pay & readers don’t have to pay. And yet, miraculously every month quality pours out. Here are my must read articles from the December issue (volume 14, number 12):
Political protest Italian-style: The blogosphere and mainstream media in the promotion and coverage of Beppe Grillo’s V-day
by Alberto Pepe and Corinna di Gennaro
The self-Googling phenomenon: Investigating the performance of personalized information resources by Thomas Nicolai, Lars Kirchhoff, Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, and Barry Saunders
Public lives and private communities: The terms of service agreement and life in virtual worlds by Debora J. Halbert
Rupert Murdoch’s media empire News Corp reported a huge financial loss ($3.4bn). Naturally this cannot go un-commented so in today’s Guardian Murdoch is quoted as saying that quality journalism* is not cheap and the era of a free-for-all in online news was over.
So what to do? Well Murdoch’s response is to start charging for online news:
“The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites.”
There may have been a time in history when newspapers could have gone the way of pay-per-view but today the free has spread. One of the reasons for the increasing losses in the print industry is not the traditional web but rather the growth of user-produced content (web2.0). Even if many of these user-producers leech of print media (as does this article since it is a reaction of what I read in the Guardian) it would be very difficult to lock down the news.
The news (whatever that term means) is spread in a number of different sources. Official, unofficial, personal, impersonal, gossip, fact, free, costly etc. But few news sources are so powerful that they can be enclosed and charge money for their content when they once have been provided for free. A pre-internet truth has always been: Any news source can be adequately filled by other news sources. The internet aggravates this by provided a seemingly infinite amount of news sources.
Even though the newspaper business is struggling with their adaption to new technology, charging readers to read their material online will fail. Any attempt by a newspaper to end free will only result in the end of that newspaper. For better or worse – free is here to stay.
* Cannot resist reminding people that “quality journalism” provided by News Corp includes trashy tabloids like The Sun and News of the World as well as quality like The Times and Wall Street Journal.