Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of the indispensable Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity and the forthcoming The Anarchist in the Library: How Peer-to-Peer Networks Are Transforming Politics, Culture, and the Control of Information is writing a series, a “five-part panorama of the implications of electronic peer-to-peer networks for culture, science, security, and globalisation,” for openDemocracy:
- Part 1: It’s a peer-to-peer world
In the first of his five-part series, Siva Vaidhyanathan maps the fluid new territory of electronic peer-to-peer networks that are transforming the information ecosystem. Is this a landscape of enlarging freedoms where citizens shape the forms and meanings of social communication, or does it offer an invitation to entrenching state surveillance and closure?
Part 2: ‘Pro-gumbo’: culture as anarchy
Peer-to-peer technologies have precedents in the anarchistic and hybrid processes by which cultures have always been formed. Decoding anxious cultural preservationists from Matthew Arnold to Samuel Huntington, the second instalment of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s five-part series reframes p2p in the light of other technologies and practices – cassettes, creolisation world music – which likewise reveal the energetic promiscuity of culture. Any attempt to censor or limit this flow would leave cultures stagnant.
Part 3: The anarchy and oligarchy of science
Science is knowledge in pursuit of truth that can expand human betterment. But part three of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s powerful series sees the free information flows at the heart of science being pressured by the copyright economy, the post-9/11 security environment, proprietary capture of genetic databases, and science policies of governments and universities. If commerce and control defeat openness and accumulation, what happens to science impacts on democracy itself.
Part 4: The nation-state vs. networks
In the last decade, the nation-state has survived three challenges to its hegemony – from the Washington Consensus, the California Ideology, and Anarchy. The promise of a borderless globalisation unified by markets and new technology has been buried. The fourth part of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s compelling series asks: what then remains of the utopian vision of global peer-to-peer networks that would bypass traditional structures of power?