network

Dicke Bretter für die Netzpolitik

Mein Beitrag zu der Debatte zur Digitalisierung im Wiener Standard (13.08.2011). Parallel dazu der Beitrag von Konrad Becker: "Experten im Schatten, Weisheit der Menge" zu Überwachung und Informationsfreiheit.

Der Rundfunk marginalisiert sich selbst, das Urheberrecht kann den digitalen Geist nicht einfangen - Die Politik muss lernen, mit den Möglichkeiten und Gefahren des Internets produktiv umzugehen

Lange Zeit hat die Politik die Digitalisierung der Gesellschaft und die damit verbundenen Umwälzungen verschlafen. Wesentliche Entscheide wurden im fernen Brüssel oder im noch ferneren Genf, am Sitz der World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), getroffen und in Wien mit dem Verweis auf internationale Verpflichtungen eher still umgesetzt.

Das Thema galt lange als unverständlich, unwichtig und unpopulär. Mit dem Auftauchen der Piratenpartei in Schweden begann sich das langsam zu ändern. Im österreichischen Parlament fand im Januar dieses Jahres eine erste Enquete zum Thema statt.

Das war auch höchste Zeit, denn es stehen einige drängende Fragen an, deren politische Beantwortung nicht unwesentlich den Charakter der Informationsgesellschaft prägen wird.

Von Nischen und Infrastrukturen

Herausforderungen und neue Ansätze politischer Technologien

Neue Technologien aus dem aktivistischen Umfeld bieten radikale Alternativen zu kultureller Nischenbildung und zentralisierten Web 2.0-Infrastrukturen.

Die sozialen und politischen Realitäten der Digitalisierung und Vernetzung sind heute von zwei konstitutiven, aber grundsätzlich unterschiedlichen, ja teilweise sogar entgegengesetzten Dynamiken geprägt. Beide stellen den Medienaktivismus vor neue Herausforderungen. Zum einen können wir ein Aufblühen neuer kultureller Nischen und horizontaler Organisationsformen beobachten. Zum anderen erleben wir gleichzeitig eine enorme Zentralisierung und Konzentration auf der Ebene der Plattformen, welche einen grossen Teil der infrastrukturellen Grundlage des Wachstum der Nischen und neuen Kooperationsmuster darstellen. Nachdem der Aufbau alternativer Infrastrukturen – Zeitschriften, TV Kanäle und Internetplattformen – in den ersten 30 Jahren medienaktivistischer Projekte eine grosse Rolle gespielt hat (Stalder 2008) sind diese Fragen in den letzten 10 Jahren etwas in den Hintergrund getreten. Denn die Komplexität der Infrastrukturen nahm stetig zu, was es immer aufwendiger machte, sie zu betreiben und die neuen, offene Plattformen, wie sie für Web 2.0 typisch sind, stellten allen - scheinbar ohne Einschränkungen - mächtige Werkzeuge zu Verfügung. Warum eine eigene Plattform betreiben, wenn grosse professionelle Anbieter das besser, sicherer und kostenfrei anbieten? Heute sind die Probleme dieser Entwicklungen aber deutlich zu erkennen. Im Folgenden werden die Herausforderungen dieser Nischenbildung, die dunkle Seite der zentralisierten Infrastrukturen sowie die darauf reagierenden, neue Entwürfe für de-zentrale Infrastrukturen skizziert.

Volltext online: Von Nischen und Infrastrukturen. Herausforderungen und neue Ansätze politischer Technologien. Medienimpluse 2/11 (21.06)

Platform Politics Conference

Here's the abstract of my planned contribution to Platform Politics: A Multidisciplinary Conference, - Cambridge 12-13 May 2011.

The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks. Platforms for radical politics of access

The two defining stories of radical media activism over the last few years have been The Pirate Bay (launched in late 2003) and WikiLeaks (launched in late 2006). The former's aim has been to highlight in the most drastic fashion the inadequacy of the current copyright regime. In order to do so, it established an alternative distribution platform based on free access to media products. WikiLeaks was founded to make possible access to insider information by encouraging whistle-blowers around the world to bring their material to the public, protected via WikiLeaks. Beyond protecting whistle-blowers, WikiLeaks aim has been to transform journalism by forcing it to publish – as much as possible – its sources so that the public can check the veracity of the claims. Its founder, Julian Assange, called this “scientific journalism”.

In my contribution to the conference, I propose look at the politics of these platforms in three ways. First, by analyzing how it has been articulated by the activists themselves. They are distinct from most previous media activists, in so far as they are not directly connected to traditional social movements and their political agendas, but are rooted in the hacker culture and its specific political culture, centering around access to (public) information, transparency of institutions and individual empowerment.

Second, I will look at the politics of the infrastructures. Each was built using open source software that has been adapted with very considerable technical skill. Each has been run by a very small number of people, using very little money (in comparison to what they achieved).

currently operating leaking platforms

Not all of them are actually fully operating, some are still in planning stages, and tunileaks and frenchleaks are, strictly speaking, not a leaking platforms but republish selected US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks. We can see a great deal of innovation in this space, addressing some of the most problematic architectural flaws of WikiLeaks, mainly the high degree of centralization and the lack of transparency that goes with it. Now that the efficacy of the basic principle has been established beyond doubt, the next phase is about fine-tuning the systems. If that can be done inside WikiLeaks, ot or if the next phase will be achieved by any of the alternative platforms remains to be seen, but it seems likely that one way or the other, it will be achieved.

Warum WikiLeaks noch lange interessant sein wird

Ein Kommentar im Falter, Wien (08/2011).

Die Berichterstattung zu WikiLeaks folgt einem bekannten Muster massenmedialer Aufmerksamkeit. Erst ist alles wunderbar und heldenhaft, dann plötzlich skandalös und irgendwie nervig, um schliesslich als eh-nichts-neues wieder ad acta gelegt zu werden. Auch wenn es scheint, dass wir bereits in der dritten Phase angekommen sind, wäre es falsch, jetzt einfach zur Tagesordnung zurück zu kehren.

Leaks, Whistle-Blowers and the Networked News Ecology

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.

Autonomy and Control in the Era of Post-Privacy

Open: Post Privavy Cover 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.

Source: Open. Cahier on Art and the Public Domain. # 19: Beyond Privacy. New Notions of the Private and Public Domains

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.

Predicting Human Mobility through phone tracking

A range of applications, from predicting the spread of human and electronic viruses to city planning and resource management in mobile communications, depend on our ability to foresee the whereabouts and mobility of individuals, raising a fundamental question: To what degree is human behavior predictable? Here we explore the limits of predictability in human dynamics by studying the mobility patterns of anonymized mobile phone users. By measuring the entropy of each individual’s trajectory, we find a 93% potential predictability in user mobility across the whole user base. Despite the significant differences in the travel patterns, we find a remarkable lack of variability in predictability, which is largely independent of the distance users cover on a regular basis.

Source: Chaoming Song; Zehui Qu; Nicholas Blumm, Albert-László Barabási: Limits of Predictability in Human Mobility, Science 19 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5968, pp. 1018 - 1021

Google vs Mozilla

The Register has an interesting article on the growing tensions between Google and Mozilla. It highlights the dangers of monopoly and the fundamental differences between non-profit and for-profit corporations and their outlook on the world.

"I look at Google and I don't see a lot of alignment with the big picture of the internet," says Asa Dotzler, the ten-year Mozilla vet who was among the team of three or four who founded the Firefox project back in 2002.

"Google is essentially an advertising company. That's where they make their money. They provide a wonderful service - primarily their search service - but it serves their advertising goals. It serves their revenue goals. The more they can know about their users, the more effective they believe they can advertise, the more money they believe they can make. That is most fundamental."

Distributed Financing for Terrorism

The NYT has an article that the Taliban's financial resources have been diversifying. Most interestingly, their number one source of money is no longer drug-related (though that is still important) but stems from donations.

The C.I.A. recently estimated in a classified report that Taliban leaders and their associates had received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan (...). Private citizens from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and some Persian Gulf nations are the largest individual contributors (...) there is no evidence so far that the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or other Persian Gulf states are providing direct aid to the Afghan insurgency.

Back in the days when states were the main actors in international politics and security matters, it was impossible to run a guerrilla war without some outside state backing it. The Soviets would never haven been defeated in Afghanistan without the CIA financing and equipping the mujahedeen. This seems no longer to the case. While this is not directly related to the ability to pool small resources for major projects characteristic of many internet-based organizations, it seems in line with a general trend that it becomes more easy to aggregate the resource of large, loosely organized networks.

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