A colleague of mine today put forth the idea of the blogosphere as a truly functional public sphere on an international level — and how it can get there. I then posted that I truly feel there is a substantial movement and much energy working towards this goal. But regulation / legislation often steps in — or fails to step in — in a way that slows the process.
Anyone care to extend on these thoughts?
Following up on Sahar’s astute post, I’d like to examine the efforts that can be (and have been) made to “promote an online public sphere.” Just as there’s a large and omnipresent online community focused on reinforcing a strictly black/white conservative/liberal, right/wrong political climate in the U.S., there is also a huge community ambitiously committed seeing the Internet and blogosphere flourish as an avenue for international dialogue and discourse.
But as with everything in the world of Media/communications, policy-making slows down the process (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse). Thank God Tim Berners-Lee insisted on the WWW being a democratic, free, and open entity when he invented it in 1989.
But for every instance in which a Yahoo develops software that enables multiple people in different locations to observe/work on the same desktop and when gov’ts attempt to tighten online laws, free speech, privacy, and IP advocates speak out. And this seems to occur whether an innovation leads to a more open, public Internet or conversely a more safeguarded, harder to corrupt Internet.
A typical example is this lede from today’s AP article: “Europe Seeks to Tighten Some Online Laws:
Some European countries are proposing outlawing the use of fake information to open e-mail accounts or set up Web sites, a move intended to help terror investigations but which could face resistance on a privacy-conscious continent.
Now, in the U.S., your ISP or Web hosting service is expected to protect your identity should you choose to keep it anonymous (I pay for my Web sites with a credit card, under my real name, but in some cases choose to have my ISP keep the info private, for example, to anyone who would do a Whois search), but as we’ve seen even the AOLs and Microsofts will crumble when crossed with a federal subpoena (and let’s not forget AT&T’s
illegal highly questionable data-sharing with the NSA).
In a sense, the Web does police itself — as do many online communities, forums and blogs — to an extent. But legislation takes a long time and regulation takes years to catch up with progress and vice versa. (The .su domain (Soviet Union) is finally marked for deletion along with .gb, .cs, .yu, and others)…
Here are some of the places I turn to follow the development of the Internet as a public sphere (I also tag sites/articles pertinent to technology and public diplomacy “pdtech” at del.icio.us — feel free to help out there…)