The Ethics of Sharing
Call for Papers for Vol. 15 - July 2011
- Deadline for extended abstracts: January 31, 2011
- Notification of acceptance to authors: February 8, 2011
- Deadline for full articles: April 30, 2011
- Publication: July, 2011
Sharing has emerged as one of the core cultural and ethical values native to the networked environment. It is built both into the technical protocols that make up the Internet, and holds together distributed, mediated communities and
organizations (even if they try to limit sharing to members inside the organizations).
In information ethics, sharing has implicitly been discussed in terms of privacy, intellectual property, secrecy, security and freedom of speech, which together define the social character of the information environment. But recent developments such as WikiLeaks have shown that there is a need to go beyond discussing the legitimacy of access or restrictions. We need to address the motivations and ethical positions that compel people to share information, even at considerable risk to themselves. Has sharing of information a special virtue of the information society? How are choices of sharing or withholding information justified? Is sharing subversive of the new global information regime, or an integral aspect of it?
This issue of IRIE brings together contributions towards an ethics of sharing that embeds the technological potentialities in lived social experience. In our understanding, information ethics "deals with ethical questions in the field of digital production and reproduction of phenomena and processes such as the exchange, combination and use of information."
Recently in my Bittorrent client! I'm all for decentralized infrastructures. It's more obvious than ever why we need them.
The Dictionary of the Human Economy is out now. It's an amazing collection of some 30 concepts of social alternatives (see table of contents). I'm very happy that my entry on "Digital Commons" is included here. You can get it in any good book store and, of course, online.
About the Book
The global financial crisis has renewed concern about whether capitalist markets are the best way of organizing economic life. Would it not be better if we were to treat the economy as something made and remade by people themselves, rather than as an impersonal machine?
The object of a human economy is the reproduction of human beings and of whatever sustains life in general. Such an economy would express human variety in its local particulars as well as the interests of all humanity.
The editors have assembled here a citizen’s guide to building a human economy. This project is not a dream but is part of a collective effort that began a decade ago at the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and has gathered pace ever since.
Over thirty original essays address topics that range from globalization, community participation and microcredit to corporate social responsibility and alternative energy. Each offers a critical guide to further reading.
The Human Economy builds on decades of engaged research to bring a new economic vision to general readers and a comprehensive guide for all students of the contemporary world.
WikiLeaks is one of the defining stories of the internet, which means by now, one of the defining stories of the present, period. At least four large-scale trends which permeate our societies as a whole are fused here into an explosive mixture whose fall-out is far from clear. First is a change in the materiality of communication. Communication becomes more extensive, more recorded, and the records become more mobile. Second is a crisis of institutions, particularly in western democracies, where moralistic rhetoric and the ugliness of daily practice are diverging ever more at the very moment when institutional personnel are being encouraged to think more for themselves. Third is the rise of new actors, 'super-empowered' individuals, capable of intervening into historical developments at a systemic level. Finally, fourth is a structural transformation of the public sphere (through media consolidation at one pole, and the explosion of non-institutional publishers at the other), to an extent that rivals the one described by Habermas with the rise of mass media at the turn of the 20th century.
Parlem del cànon i dels nous models de negoci en l'era digital amb Felix Stalder i Peter Sunde, que han pres part en el Fòrum d'Accés a la Cultura a l'era digital, congregat a l'Arts Santa Mònica de Barcelona.
I spent the last few days at the Free Culture Forum in Barcelona, which was focusing on sustainability of free culture.
One of the main themes of the discussion was the culture flatrate and the collecting societies. In part because the main organizer of the forum, exgae, is in a high-stakes fight with the Spanish collecting society, sgae. In part, because the notion of a culture flatrate appears to be gaining some ground politically. I use the qualifier 'appears' on purpose, because I haven't seen it at all, but others, who are more deeply plugged into the back channels of the policy process, are saying so.
The discussion, though, was rather unproductive, confusing and exhausting, mainly because the two concepts are mutually exclusive.
Free Culture, in its most basic notion, is about the resources and rights available to every individual to make a contribution of his or her choosing to culture (a distributed system of meaning) and to communicate the activities to anybody he or she wishes to. It is a transformative view of culture were the input and output of the productive process are not categorically distinct, implying that existing cultural artifacts and processes are part of the resources available to everyone.
I spent last weekend at a small conference in Leipzig, organized by Johanna Niesyto, Geert Lovink and others, called Wikipedia: Der Kritische Standpunkt (A critical point of view) , which brought together researchers studying Wikipedia and 'Wikipedians', mainly admins and high-ranking editors.
What follows relates mainly to the German language Wikipedia, but I assume some issues are similar in other large Wikipedia, not the least the English language one.
What came to the fore, at least for me, was that the 'inner circle' -- foundation people, admins and high-ranking editors who take responsibility for the project as a whole -- are feeling increasingly beleaguered by hordes of people who are either a) ignorant/stupid and thus have nothing to contribute b) hostile trolls out to cause troubles c) people who only criticize yet will do no actual work.
In many ways, this is an understandable feeling, after all, running Wikipedia is a major thing, time and man power are always scarce and the pressures from the public are high. Any significant misktake, and it's front page news within hours. Yet, there are no clear procedures how to handle many of the tasks (e.g. when to block editing an entry).
This is all not terribly surprising, given the exponential growth of the last couple of years and the need to create policies and procedures on an ad-hoc basis.. But it leads to a shift in what this project is about.
Hier die Folien meines Beitrag zur Wikipedia: Ein kritischer Standpunkt (Leipzig, 25/26 September)
Abstract: Freies Wissen und demokratische Wissensordnung
Die vier Freiheiten der GPL (GNU General Public License) gelten als das Kriterium für Freiheit oder Unfreiheit von Information. Diese enge, auf reine Verfügbarkeit von Information fokussierende Definition sagt jedoch wenig über die sozialen und politischen Dimensionen der Systeme aus, die diese freien Informationen zur Verfügung stellen. Meine Ausführungen fokussieren auf den Unterschied zwischen einem engen Verständnis von freien Wissen und einer erweiterten Konzeption einer demokratischen Wissensordnung. Letztere geht über die Verfügbarkeit hinaus und berücksichtigt auch die Prozesse und Ziele der Wissensgenerierung. Zwei Ebenen rücken dadurch ins Zentrum der Analyse. Zum einen die organisatorische Struktur der Plattform, auf der das Wissen zusammengefügt wird, zum anderen die interne Dynamik der Gemeinschaft, die das Wissen schafft und erhält. Auf der ersten Ebene ist Wikipedia ausgesprochen innovativ, auf der zweiten Ebene ist Wikipedia immer wieder der Gefahr ausgesetzt, club-artigen Schließungstendenzen anheim zu fallen.
Update: Stefan Merten has written a pretty good English summary of the first session of the conference, which also includes detailed comments on my talk. If you want details.
Update II: Video des Vortrags
Researcher Felix Stalder analyses the loss of the key role of the concept of privacy. Privacy long secured the balance between the control of institutions and the autonomy of the citizen. Today, with institutions aiming more and more to provide customized services and the autonomy of both citizens and institutions changing, this role is disappearing, making the danger of an increase in control and power a realistic one. To turn the tide, Stalder argues for a greater transparency of the back-end protocols, algorithms and procedures of the new, flexible bureaucracies.
One way to characterize Western modernity, the period we are just leaving, is by its particular structure of control and autonomy. It emerged as the result of two historic developments – one leading to large, hierarchic bureaucracies as the dominant form of organization, the other to the (bourgeois, male) citizen as the main political subject. Privacy played a key role in maintaining a balance between the two. Today, this arrangement is unravelling. In the process, privacy loses (some of) its social functions. Post-privacy, then, points to a transformation in how people create autonomy and how control permeates their lives.