In this issue:
Foreign Policy • May/June 2010
Reality check. "Two decades in, the Internet has neither brought down dictators nor eliminated borders," says diplomacy expert Evgeny Morozov in an article that debunks much of the cyber-utopian hype surrounding the Net. But what it has done is accelerate the news cycle and expand communications opportunities, creating a more "combustible and unpredictable" global political environment. Morozov predicts further fragmentation (calling it "the Splinternet"), as corporations and governments seek to control access to information. Read on for a political expert's take on where things are heading.
Think of this issue of ATF as the contrarian issue. Each of these articles counters one or another of the strong currents of euphoria that surround the Internet, the businesses that the Internet supports and the reconfigurations that are characterized as inevitable. Start here. The Internet did not change politics and government. ( Michalko)
Boston Review • March 18, 2010
Food for thought. As more content migrates to the digital cloud, what are we giving up in terms of control and privacy? Richard Stallman's essay warns against the potential downside of software-as-a-service.
Software as a service—in Stallman's view cloud computing is just another way to say "Think like a sucker." Not exactly a rant, but close, from one of the computing industry's long-time iconoclasts. Check out his Web site. ( Michalko)
FutureBook • April 29, 2010
Digital wrongs. Blogger Nick Harkaway has his say on DRM. He makes some valid points, including the difficulties that diverse DRM schemes pose for archivists. His conclusion? "The best alternative to DRM is to make the experience of buying and owning an ebook superior to the experience of not buying one." Amen.
Digital rights management is bad, it doesn't work but everyone is using it. Worth reading considering the ways that ebooks will alter our world. ( Michalko)
Traditional Ways of Judging 'Quality' in Published Content Are Now Useless
PaidContent.org • May 3, 2010
Sea change. Web entrepreneur Ben Elowitz says publishers' ideas of what constitutes old-school "quality" presume an audience that no longer exists. For today's online content consumers, credential, correctness, objectivity and craftsmanship simply don't matter the way they used to. "Looking at these four old criteria for quality, they all share the same source: they are based on the belief that a publisher controls the audience's experience, and the audience's access to content is scarce. Sure, that was true 10 years ago, but today it's absolutely false."
Dismissing these qualities as unimportant dimensions of content seems a little glib to me. I'm sure they mattered to the online retailer he founded. ( Michalko)
How to Save the World • May 4, 2010
Thinking the unthinkable. Author Dave Pollard plays devil's advocate in predicting the demise of an infrastructure "that's simply unaffordable and unsustainable in a world of economic, energy and ecological collapse." Before you dismiss his premise out of hand, skim through for some thought-provoking points from the dark side of "green."
Saved this one for last. The Internet didn't eliminate borders, didn't change government, and what's more it serves up content without credentials that is protected by software that doesn't work, but don't worry because it's going to collapse. As Pollard says in this blog entry (you may delight in the irony) "the biggest uses of the Internet today are music, porn, health information, games, and amateur photo/video sharing. To the extent you use the Internet for any of these things, do you have a way of doing them, with no or low technology, when the Internet's gone?" ( Michalko)