Samir’s Selection 06/07/2013 (p.m.)

  • It’s natural to think of the Internet as a technology of emancipation… For many people, going online has felt like a passage into a new and radically different kind of democratic state, one freed of the physical and social demarcations and constraints that can hobble us in the real world…

    The Net is “the world’s largest ungoverned space,” declare Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen … “The Web is a world we’ve made for one another.”

    It’s a stirring thought, but like most myths it’s at best a half-truth and at worst a delusion…  

    Computer systems are not at their core technologies of emancipation. They are technologies of control. They were designed as tools for monitoring and influencing human behavior, for controlling what people do and how they do it… They will, to use a cliché that happens in this case to be true, know more about us than we know about ourselves…

    The technology’s ultimate social and personal consequences will be determined in large measure by how the tension between the two sides of its nature—liberating and controlling—comes to be resolved…

    a “Control Revolution”

    Through the Control Revolution, the technologies for processing information finally caught up with the technologies for processing matter and energy, bringing the living system of society back into equilibrium. The entire history of automated data processing, from Hollerith’s tabulator through the mainframe computer and on to the modern computer network, is best understood as part of that ongoing process of reestablishing and maintaining control…

     Indeed, the very structure of a bureaucracy is replicated in the functions of a computer…

    In using a computer, a person becomes part of the control mechanism. He turns into a component of what the Internet pioneer J. C. R. Licklider, in the seminal 1960 paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” described as a system integrating man and machine into a single, programmable unit…

     Ironically, once they were networked into a corporate system, PCs actually enabled companies to monitor, structure, and guide the work of employees more tightly than was ever possible before. “Local networking took the ‘personal’ out of personal computing,”…

    The Net’s “internal protocols,” as New York University professor Alexander Galloway writes in his book Protocol, “are the enemy of bureaucracy, of rigid hierarchy, and of centralization.” If a corporate computer network was akin to a railroad, with tightly scheduled and monitored traffic, the Internet was more like the highway system, with largely free-flowing and unsupervised traffic…

    The error that Barlow and many others have made is to assume that the Net’s decentralized structure is necessarily resistant to social control. They’ve turned a technical characteristic into a metaphor for personal freedom. But, as Galloway explains, the connection of previously untethered computers into a network governed by strict protocols has actually created “a new apparatus of control.”…

    What’s different, in comparison to the physical world, is that acts of control become harder to detect and wielders of control more difficult to discern.
     

    tags: NicholasCarr internet information networktheory freeexpression freedom control surveillance HermanHollerith computing punchcard industrialrevolution telegraph Morse bureaucracy timezone client-server web power

  • tags: surveillance espionage data internet telecom NSA FBI USsecurity NYTimes Guardian 2013 law privacy

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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