Why we need true p2p technologies and why citizens and geeks will have to do it, not corporations

Selected citations; you can find the sources here.

* Keith Curtis: The corporations won’t do it

“Given currently available technology, we should all have cars that drive us around in absolute safety, leaving us to lounge in the back and sip champagne.

We have all the hardware to do this — the video cameras, motion sensors and high powered computers — and we’ve had this technology for decades. So why don’t cars drive themselves? The answer is that we don’t have the software.
This software will not be “owned” by corporations like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, who are mostly impeding technological progress. (Google supports efforts such as Linux via Android, but their AI code in Google Now, language translation and driverless cars are not built in an open way.) This software we need will be built by a global community, taking on problems too big for any one team to even understand. We should have been working together all along, but it is necessary now for the few big problems that remain.”


1. A desire to improve and simplify the experience for writing and creating content online. This is probably the area that’s stagnated most until the recent crop of tools like Medium or Svbtle popped up, though there had been a few small improvements in more limited contexts where people carefully reduced the scale and scope of the messages being shared to 140 characters or a single photo or a simple, gestural “like”.

2. An understandable, but still geeky, desire to advance the “open web” in a decentralized architecture that mimics the early days of the Internet. Based on the success of early open technologies like email, this technological desire is a useful way of ensuring that new systems don’t simply become completely owned by corporate interests. Frequently accompanied by a preference open source software, this area of endeavor has been characterized by a constant flow of quixotically unsuccessful efforts (Diaspora, Open Social, etc.) but is recently ascendant again with the excitement around App.net.

And the fundamental value which has given blogging and social media its moral grounding and its most significant impact:

3. The urge to make tools for communication and community more inclusive, more participatory and more democratic. To my surprise, this goal has been the part of the social web that has succeeded best, empowering and enriching the lives of many people who aren’t privileged by geography, wealth, inheritance, social standing, or identity. While far from perfect, it’s inarguable that people of many less privileged groups have participated in the social web from the start, and have been able to impact the world around them, and that counts for a lot.”

* Smari McCarthy: Freedom requires infrastructure

A man who has no tools to acquire his necessities of life is a slave to his necessities. Given those tools, he becomes a slave to the labour required to fruitfully use them. Only by transcending each difficulty as it comes, in a process not dissimilar to metasystem transitions, can the individual achieve freedom.
Similarly, if at any point the individual becomes removed from the infrastructure that allows him any of the previous metasystem transitions, then he becomes a slave to those who control that infrastructure.”

* Andy Robinson: Tools for concentrated power vs. tools for diffuse power

“There are tools, technologies and discourses which favour diffuse power, and tools, technologies and discourses which favour concentrated power. Today the concentrated power mechanisms have the upper hand. All it would take to turn the tide is for the diffuse power mechanisms to gain the upper hand. I’d speculate that diffuse power mechanisms may have gained the upper hand in some fields in the 1960s-70s, and only the recomposition of capitalism as neoliberalism (with new technologies and discourses) saved it at this point (e.g. states were losing guerrilla wars to popular forces across the board in this period). If diffuse power retained the upper hand then any authoritarian regime created on the backs of diffuse power would itself be vulnerable to a reactivation of diffuse power.”

* Mayo Fuster: The ambivalence of technology

“Imagine “change” not as a chain of steps (one after another, as the chain of production), but think of change as an an eco-system of spheres where there is not starting point but spheres that interact and depend one to the other. As production goes from a chain of production to the eco-systemic forms of online creation communities or peer production, the same happen to the change of the system. I think we have to be open to the idea of starting the change from the diverse spheres and see how they affect to each other, instead of trying to draft first a starting line.

Furthermore, the tools have ambivalences, they open possibilities of freedom at a time that they open possibilities of control and exploitation. Dealing with that ambivalence is very difficult (there is not right fix solutions one for all situations; which it is a pity, because it would be easier just to believe fervently in a solution and stick to it centuries after centuries); but I think it would be a mistake to loose the opportunities of entering in to the eco-system of change though finding a way in the ambivalence. We need to learn to put the ambivalence in the side of the principles we defend, more than searching situations in which there is not.”

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