I love the internet. I just wish I knew about more about how to use it. I am a technological illiterate. I admire the possibilities inherent in this medium.
Jean Lanier and Evegeny Morozov were two early adopters and enthusiasts for the internet, heralding the potential for freedom and innovation in the new technology.
Now they are having second thoughts. Lanier, a musician, is concerned about the threat to artists, who he sees as the new threatened middle classes.
Without any guaranteed monetisation, they will not be able to earn a livelihood. And he blames open source and shareware.
Far from providing opportunities for originality and experimentation, they shut these down, because people cannot earn a living.
This may also be far from the techno-utopian vision of Clay Shirky, who still believes the net will bring hacker democracy to the world.
It depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. With the pessimists, is Morozov. He is scared that far from enshrining individual liberty, the net will entrench surveillance and control.
Internet privacy is an issue. It’s not just porn-users wanting their anonymity. Political activists fear arrest if regimes discover their identities.
People who previously could not contact each other, can now reach across the ether to build fresh congeries of otherwise isolated individuals.
I recently had a catheter fitted in hospital. I went online to get some advice, and discovered an online ‘community’ of sexual fetishists who wear catheters for kicks.
That wasn’t for me. I look forward to getting rid of this thing. But while there may be support for minority groups online, there is also a fragmentation of our society into divergent interest-groups.
Some of these are helpful; others dangerous: like the supposed anorexic or suicide support groups, which actually encourage the dangerous behaviour.
Others become market niches. Much ‘empowerment’ and is a surrender to the market, defining ourselves by what we buy and wear.
Simultaneously, the computer is isolating anyone, especially children, who separates themselves for hours to surf the net.
Rather than enabling hackticism, the net may be fomenting culture-wide de-politicisation, as people retreat into the privatised world of their screens, where they can the object of market manipulation.
However, another tendency is #Accelerate. These thinkers follow the ideas of philosopher Gilles Deleuze, that we need to ‘accelerate’ the tendencies of capitalism.
Far from wanting to slow down, they want to speed up the pace of change. The fragmentation and individualism of the internet could also open up the liberatory possibilities within technology.
Will this new techno-anarchism produce creative change, ort herald further disintegration of our society?