Disrecognized Space

agressi sunt mare tenebrarum, quid in eo esset exploraturi

‘Free’ internet: linking attention and profit

When the internet passed from being an obscure academic and military project to a popular means of communication it was often presented in a utopian manner as a revolution against capitalism and political restraint. As the internet has matured it has become evident that the internet is far from such a construct. As it has developed today it is no more free than the offline world and, though its freedoms and commercialising occur in different ways, it is equally constrained by power, politics and capitalism so that a ‘free’ internet is only true in a very limited sense.
Barlow (1996) famously announced in his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” that cyberspace would be a place magically separated from the realities of the real world, a different space where none of the power constructs or economic rules would apply:
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.
While such utopian pronouncements can still be heard today, dissenting voices have also spoken up. Evgeny Morozov, for example, observes (Levy, 2011) that the internet is often forced into a Western narrative that predicates it as a liberating mechanism, ignoring that it also has dimensions that interact with society and power at large. Rather than ‘simplistic narratives’ he wants us to consider the internet as a social phenomenon, not just a technology. Today’s internet, for example, is the home of cybercrime and spam (Morozov, 2011).
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