It's Not An Open vs. Closed Internet, But Ours vs. Theirs
from the one-way-to-look-at-it dept
Dave Weinberger has a thought-provoking post where he discusses why an "open" internet is so important, and suggests that we may be thinking about things incorrectly due to the term "open."
The Net as a medium is not for anything in particular -- not for making calls, sending videos, etc. It also works at every scale, from one to one to many to many. This makes it highly unusual as a medium. In fact, we generally don't treat it as a medium but as a world, rich with connections, persistent, and social. Because everything we encounter in this world is something that we as humans made (albeit sometimes indirectly), it feels like it's ours. Obviously it's not ours in the property sense. Rather, it's ours in the way that our government is ours and our culture is ours. There aren't too many other things that are ours in that way.I'd certainly never thought about it that way, but it does make a point. I do think that many more people feel "at home" on the internet in a way that they never could or would in other platforms or media. And part of the fear that people have about losing an "open" internet is that it will decrease any incentive for participation. There is definitely a sense that part of the reason why some folks would like to pull back on openness is to turn the internet from a platform for users towards a more controlled broadcast sort of platform. That is, it won't be about communication, but about content delivery -- and when you do that, it loses a significant portion of its value. And I think that's where the shift from "ours" to "theirs" comes from. Not everyone can put a show on TV, but anyone can put a video on YouTube or just create a website. The internet is about communication, and when you start mitigating who can communicate and how, you lose the value of community.
If we allow others to make decisions about what the Net is for -- preferring some content and services to others -- the Net won't feel like it's ours, and we'll lose some of the enthusiasm (= love) that drives our participation, innovation, and collaborative efforts.
So, if we're going to talk about the value of the open Internet, we have to ask what the opposite of "open" is. No one is proposing a closed Internet. When it comes to the Internet, the opposite of "open" is "theirs."