The December issue of First Monday [Vol. 21(12)] entitled “‘Reclaiming the Internet’ with distributed architectures” was recently published. This special issue was co-edited by Francesca Musiani and Cécile Méadel.

From the editorial:

“The interdisciplinary research program ADAM (Distributed Architectures and Multimedia Applications,, conducted from 2010 to 2014 and funded by the French National Agency for Research (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, ANR), has explored the technical, political, social, socio-cultural and legal implications of distributed network architectures. While actually covering, in practice, a large variety of technical arrangements and topologies, this term broadly indicates a type of network bearing several features: a network made of multiple computing units, seeking to achieve its objectives by sharing resources and tasks, able to tolerate the failure of individual nodes and thus not subjected to single points of failure, and able to scale flexibly. Beyond this simplified operational definition, the choice, by developers and engineers of Internet-based services, to develop these architectures instead of more centralized models has several implications for the daily use of online services and for the rights of Internet users.

The final symposium of the ADAM project, open to disciplines as varied as science and technology studies, information and communication sciences, economics, law and network engineering, took place at the end of 2014, and addressed these implications in terms of a central issue. With the increasingly evident centralization of the Internet and the surveillance excesses it appears to foster, what are the place and the role of the (re-)decentralization of networks’ technical architectures? What is the place for user autonomy and empowerment at a time when infringements upon privacy and pervasive surveillance practices are often embedded in network architectures? Are distribution and decentralization of network architectures the ways, as Philippe Aigrain (2010) suggested, to “reclaim” Internet services — instruments of ‘technical governance’ able to reconnect with the original organization of cyberspace?

Papers presented at the symposium, of which this special issue presents a “revised and improved” selection, have explored decentralized network architectures in political, social, and legal terms as well as technical. While this exploration has drawn from different methodological and epistemological perspectives, this introduction points out some of the ‘transversal’ dynamics and issues they highlight. Before getting on to that, though, we wish to briefly touch upon the genesis of our project — that has finally led to the symposium — what motivated us to investigate distributed architectures through socio-economic, political and legal lenses, and how we have seen these objects evolve within the frame of the project and beyond.”

Contents of the special issue:

“Reclaiming the Internet” with distributed architectures: An introduction by Francesca Musiani, Cécile Méadel

The decentralization of knowledge: How Carnap and Heidegger influenced the Web by Harry Halpin, Alexandre Monnin

Monuments of cyberspace: Designing the Internet beyond the network framework by Paris Chrysos

Blockchain technology as a regulatory technology: From code is law to law is code by Primavera De Filippi, Samer Hassan

Peer to party: Occupy the law by Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay

Law encoded: Towards a free speech policy model based on decentralized architectures by Argyro P. Karanasiou

Alternative rules for alternative networks? Tort law meets wireless community networks by Federica Giovanella

Local networks for local interactions: Four reasons why and a way forward by Panayotis Antoniadis

Cosmopolitical composition of distributed architectures by Dominique Boullier.

Photo by Kevin Doncaster

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