"Jane, you ignorant slut..." On openDemocracy, Siva Vaidhyanathan and Bill Thompson begin an ongoing debate on the nature and meaning of P2P.
- This is the story of clashing ideologies: information anarchy and information oligarchy. They feed off of each other dialectically. Oligarchy justifies itself through "moral panics" over the potential effects of anarchy. And anarchy justifies itself by reacting to the trends toward oligarchy.
The actors who are promoting information anarchy include libertarians, librarians, hackers, terrorists, religious zealots, and anti-globalisation activists. The actors who push information oligarchy include major transnational corporations, the World Trade Organisation, and the governments of the United States of America and the Peoples' Republic of China.
Rapidly, these ideologies are remaking our information ecosystem. And those of us uncomfortable with either vision, and who value what we might call "information justice", increasingly find fault and frustration with the ways our media, cultural, information and political systems are changing.
....Several technological innovations have enabled this amplification and globalisation of peer-to-peer communication:
The protocols that makeup the internet (i.e. TCP/IP) and the relative openness of networks that make up the internet.
The modularity, customisability, portability, and inexpense of the personal computer.
The openness, customisability, and insecurity of the major personal computer operating systems.
The openness, insecurity, and portability of the digital content itself.
Understandably, states and corporations that wish to impede peer-to-peer communication have been focusing on these factors. These are, of course, the very characteristics of computers and the internet that have driven this remarkable - almost revolutionary - adoption of them in the past decade.
These are the sites of the battle. States and media corporations wish to:
Monitor and regulate every detail of communication and shift liability and regulatory responsibility to the Internet Service Providers.
Redesign the protocols that run the internet.
Neuter the customisability of the personal computer and other digital devices.
Impose "security" on the operating systems so that they might enable "trust" between a content company and its otherwise untrustworthy users.
These efforts involve both public and private intervention, standard setting by states and private actors. The United States Congress, the Federal Communication Commission, the Motion Picture Association of America, Microsoft and Intel have all been involved in efforts to radically redesign our communicative technologies along these lines. And they are appealing for complementary legal and technical interventions by the European Union and the World Trade Organisation.