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Re: <nettime> siva vaidhyanathan: the new information ecosystem
Are Flagan on Sun, 31 Aug 2003 17:49:25 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> siva vaidhyanathan: the new information ecosystem

Siva provides a very good overview with most of the usual facts/arguments
thrown in (along with some new, to me at least, links). However, it is
interesting to note how little this debate (?) has changed over the last
years, even throughout the batches periodically reappearing here on
nettime. Siva clearly maintains the tenor that unabashedly, and very
obviously, automates nods and "compelling" labels from open democracy. Yet
all the hard questions that this proverbial Universal Resource Locator
might be asking are neglected in favor of what is mostly copy and paste of
a mailman-generated consensus.

I think Keith Hart points to and asks the harder questions. They have to
do with property -- rights and regulations, definitions and borders (far
beyond any glossary). If one considers the shifts from feudalism, to
markets, to industrial capitalism, and toward an information society (yes,
it's a big picture), a society's political, economical and thus arguably
also cultural organization around _property_ is central. And with the
introduction of property comes the inclusion and exclusion logic that Hart
quotes in every instance of a definition, where it enters as its
delineating regulation. One may then argue, as it is frequently done and
also in the parent here, that the inability to clearly define and regulate
property has opened up "culture" and "society" to a sort of rainbow mass
of sharing; hence the public domain flourishes in a free for all that has
been cast as "libre" to avoid, again, recalling the confusing yet very
real questions pertaining to organizing principles, to structure or, to
join this new program in nomenclature, flows. Hence the word anarchy pops
up a lot and Diogenes' brand of cynicism reappears as the Grecian 2003
philosophy of a noble techno savage.

But is the main neglected question still not hovering around property, a
profitable nexus of inclusion and exclusion centered on politically,
economically and culturally realized and agreed upon value(s)? There are
of course many efforts to somehow reorganize this domain, now deeply
intellectual (immaterial) as well as material, according to the models
brought about by the digital, the net, p2p and so on, such as GPL,
Copyleft and Creative Commons. The ensuing question then is arguably if
these supposed revolutionary manifestos can reach beyond their information
ecosystem, of which Siva for one primarily speaks, and affect the broader
and longer historical trajectory of property as an operative extension of
and foundation for oligarchy. Or, to frame it more realistically perhaps,
to what extent it may or may not do so? The rhetorical cliffhanger,
however, is if these changes, so lauded in online forums and the actions
of a brave new p2p world (pirating, as it complicates the case, is
frequently glossed over), actually pose more than a temporary trespass, a
most minor infringement, on the outer edge of a more massive and
encompassing transformation of property. Considering how far this process
has actually come, right down to human genes -- in comparison to how many
MP3s were triumphantly traded last night, how the Linux kernel improved,
how the bandwidth traffic on sourceforge peaked, or the current
stock-ticker index for nettime subs climbed another graphical mountain --
lends some perspective on the infospheres and biospheres within this
global bubble. All this is tediously repetitive, but, due to the
reluctance toward a more difficult assessment, it primarily leads to
increasingly paradoxical things like "six limitations on open source,"
which appear to initiate cultish communes still intent on reforming the
world by shouting from their compounds.

What increasingly surprises me in this text and others is the grindstone
allegiance to a philosophical and theoretical tradition that treats
individuality and, in an easily misunderstood term in this introduced
context, free will or thought as given -- or, more to the point, at all
possible, fundamentally responsible, and in most cases even original (ref:
anarchy and cynicism above). What, in turn, is almost completely lacking
is an appreciation or knowledge of systems thinking, a view where, for
example, Arney deems experts (those IP hot commodities) everything and
nothing, where individuality and knowledge, finding its cultural
apotheosis in the expert, succumb to a modular component view that reduces
these units to, and I quote here from memory, dead but real executives of
the inevitable. We were, I believe, talking about an information ecosystem
(crucially after the computer and within the context of a replicating
argument for anarchic open source culture being so much more "alive")
where rainforests are already turned into pulp fictions for amazon.com.


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