01 Jun 2017
"A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" is a utopian musing on the promises of cyberlibertarianism. Written in the mid-1990s when the internet was in its infancy and many of its early pioneers espoused its radical democratic potential, the vision laid out here has fallen flat. Perry Barlow notes, "Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live," but one shortcoming of this vision is that the people who came to live in this utopia each brought their own systems of beliefs, preferred modes of commerce, local laws, etc. For instance, to have access to cyberspace, you need a computer, which is often manufactured by a large multinational corporation. You need an ISP, which is subject to the telecom laws of the place you physically reside in, which sometimes includes firewalls and mass censorship. The websites you access must live on servers, which are physical objects and subject to, among other things, the intellectual property laws of the country where that server resides.
The internet is a vast new network where existing systems - capitalism, racism, etc - were replicated. When Perry Barlow states, "We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity," he clearly hasn't been on Twitter lately. And not to mention naive. With the rise of trolls on places like 4chan, some peoples beliefs are directly opposed to others', and rules and laws are needed to work through the complexity of allowing multiple groups coexist in relative peace.
Interestingly, Perry Barlow is a founder member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports personal freedoms in the digital age and online civil liberities. On the one hand, the existence of EFF points to the much more complex, less utopian reality of the internet, on the other hand I think it is a great organization. Since there is no utopia of the internet, we need organizations like EFF that can fight on our behalf against multinational interests, government espionage, and the like.
This week's assignment is use NeDB, templates, CSS, and some interactive JS. Mine is at http://188.8.131.52:3000/form.html.