As more of daily life moves to the Internet, the political implications of software design become more apparent. A case is point: the Russian government's practice of seizing computers from various citizen advocacy groups because they allegedly contain "pirated" Microsoft software.
The weekend news showed exultant customers hoisting their newly purchased iPads over the heads in stunning images of triumph, transcendence and rapture. You gotta hand it to Steve Jobs. He knows how to stage a PR coup.
Too bad that the iPad is hardly a paragon of "freedom." It is actually a "tethered appliance," as tech guru Jonathan Zittrain puts it — a closed, proprietary system that enables Apple to control what we may do with the iPad and which new applications may run on it.
Sometimes it just takes a determined set of commoners to get the job done. Impatient with the lethargy of the federal government in making its own films and videos available online, info-activist Carl Malamud has launched the International Amateur Scanning League. Dozens of volunteers are digitizing government-produced DVDs on everything from agricultural advice to presidential addresses, and putting them on the Internet.
A huge international coalition has come together to campaign for respect for the civil rights of citizens and artists in the digital era. Yesterday, the Charter of the Culture Forum of Barcelona for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge was released by more than 100 representatives from 20 different countries who had met in Barcelona from October 30 to November 1. The Charter is a landmark statement about rights of commoners to freedom of expression, access to culture and knowledge, privacy, cyber-security and Net Neutrality, among other concerns.
It may seem odd to celebrate a day known as One Web Day. which is this Tuesday, September 22. Isn’t this a bit like National Mustard Day (August 3) or National Bubble Gum Week (in March)?
Not at all! We have very few devoted to our shared, commons interests — and the World Wide Web surely must rank as one of our most important shared interests. In fact, the Web must be considered one of the most amazing, historic, disruptive, democratic and surprising creations in human history.
One of the more pernicious enclosures of the commons is the enclosure of time and consciousness. It’s pernicious because it is so subtle and rarely discerned. When commercial values such as productivity and efficiency become so pervasive and internalized, they crowd out other ways of being. Our very sense of humanity — full-bodied, spontaneous, spiritual — leaches away.