Political net agnosticism: worrying about the present and future enclosures of the internet …

What do you think of this heartfelt cry of Antonio Lopez?

Are we loosing “our internet”?

“In terms of the Net, my biggest concern is the use of anti-piracy/counterfeiting laws to privatize civil complaints. Rather than go through the legal system to request warrants and to file official complaints against so-called pirates, entertainment companies are requiring Internet providers to police their customers and to cut off access when violations are detected. The Economist reports that there is piracy detection software in beta that can identify a single frame of a copyrighted film. With such detection bots roaming the net, will they be able to distinguish between fair use and legitimate piracy? I think not. It’s a return to Napoleonic law in which you are guilty until proven innocent. And who has the might to fight Comcast or Time-Warner? A while back I posted a short clip on YouTube from Saturday Night Live that I wanted my students to comment on for class. YouTube pulled it because it violated user terms. To Google’s credit, they have an appeals process in which I could make a fair use claim. As a result, in the end the video was restored, but I imagine it took a human to intervene. What happens when we automate the policing of the Net, let alone the tracking of people’s behaviors and relationships? Facebook anyone?

I continue to use the Internet for teaching and often post copyrighted media for students to comment on. I’m thankful that this has made teaching more interesting and accessible to wider groups of people. In the past year, however, I have found it more difficult to do so. My YouTube channel has dozens of playlists with videos I use for teaching. Often I create playlists as I’m teaching a course, only to find out the following semester that half the videos I posted are no longer available. As a fallback position I use the Firefox plug-in Easy YouTube Downloader to get “hard copies” of the videos so that I have access to them for later use. This has saved me on several occasions. So though I appreciate the plethora of media available to me (far more than five years ago), I feel like the moment is very tenuous. I don’t know how much longer this will go on.

I’m also feeling agnostic about social networks. I have Twitter and Facebook accounts, but have not been able to develop the habit of engaging them. I’ve heard all kind of praise for Twitter, but it simply makes my eyes go cross. I understand and appreciate why people like it, but I think I’m too old school to really get it. Facebook is the same. I dip my toe in it here and there, but the stream mostly passes me by. Sometimes I like the linkages it makes for me, but for the most part I feel pretty disengaged. In all honesty, I’m not into getting poked all the time.

The same goes with the Web in general. For a writer, researcher, activist and educator it is, of course, invaluable. But I also find that I don’t use it that much except when there is something I need. Unlike the early days of the Web when surfing was a novel experience, I get overloaded very quickly. But then again, the same goes for museums and galleries. I can only look at art for an hour before my brain gets fried. Literally. Processing nerve stimulus takes energy, be it art or the umpteenth Website on ecological pedagogy (though when I’m less tired, I’m sure glad these sites are there).

Additionally I find that I don’t like to chat too much with SMS, though sometimes I find it very convenient. The thing is, when I’m on the computer I’m either reading or writing and I don’t like to be interrupted. For the life of me I don’t understand why people post their Skype names on their Websites. Who in the world wants to get so many phone calls? And when it comes to texting, I’m all thumbs.

As I’m writing this I get the sense that maybe I’m coming across as a bit of a selfish netizen. I’m aware of the spiritual precept that manifestation follows intention and attention. You get back what you put in. I certainly cherish the interactivity and exchange that has facilitated new friendships on the Net, many invaluable. It doesn’t have to be either/or, but this and that. Nonetheless, remaining centered in the cosmos is hard enough; maintaining an extended self in the Net is that much more to deal with.

Finally, I like walking and riding bikes without the electronic tether. I enjoy unpredictability and minor amounts of chaos that comes along with not knowing everything about everybody at every moment. Sometimes there’s a benefit to opacity.

I know I’m particular and of a certain age which makes me un-enamored with these digital tools. As an old punk, I tend to prefer zine making as an early form of Web publishing and blogging. What is different for me now is that I miss the tactility of tabletop publishing. I like getting glue and ink on my fingers, and cutting things with scissors and holding something in my hands. I admit that blogging and the community around WordPress does remind me a bit of the zine days, and there are times when blogging and networking does get me excited like the good ol’ days of Xerox lore. The thing I love about blogging is that I can instantaneously publish what I’m thinking about, which gives me a sketchpad for longer, more thoughtful passages that end up in long-form essays and books.

No one is telling me to do any of these things, though I do feel a little peer pressure that I should like Facebook and Twitter. I’m not trying to be a village atheist, but rather am finding a middle way in which the tool is here and available, but at the same time without attachment. This constitutes my current thinking about what it means to be a Net agnostic.

I don’t mean for this missive to be solemn or sad, just a respite from an exhausting information haul. I’m still here, I still care. I’m just taking my time, pacing a long walk, slowing down a bit so as to not get too caught up in the frenzied tornado of the Network Society.”

1 Comment Political net agnosticism: worrying about the present and future enclosures of the internet …

  1. AvatarPG

    Let them go. Tell people about cultural artworks under proprietary copyright, but do nothing that may violate copyright laws or enforcements.
    Rather pay attention and lead others to pay attention to culture which is free through Creative Commons licenses and the like. CC licenses are viral and have the potential to unleash a cultural blossoming of unprecedented proportions.
    If people would opt out from proprietary copyright artworks and opt in to CC distributed artworks, what would follow? Remember king Midas’ story? 🙂

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