Something Wendy Hui Kyong Chun writes in the introduction to Control and Freedom Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics in an interesting way sums up the dichotomy between just the struggle for freedom (that one might argue Anonymous undertakes) on one hand and the struggle for control (let’s say the state wants control) on the other hand: “Although ideologies and practices of freedom and control are not new, the coupling of these term is uniquely tied to information technology and our current political situation” (2006, p.1). Some argue that the Internet have lead us into an era of freedom whereas others argue it has pushed us towards a greater control. “Control-freedom,” the two are terms clearly connected with each other and are both possible directions that the continued development of the Internet can take. “Paranoid narratives of total surveillance and total freedom are the poles of control-freedom, and are symptomatic of a larger shift in power relations from the rubric of discipline and liberty to that of control and freedom” (2006, p.6).
So the question is if there can be harmony? And if we even want to strive for harmony! As you might have noted I strongly believe in the freedom that Internet can provide one with. But is it even possible to break free from control? Well. “Yes,” Chun argues–Freedom cannot be controlled and new media provides us with “possibilities for a freedom beyond control” (2006, p.2). She goes on to describe it by interpreting the ideas of Lawrence Lessig presented in the work Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999) by claiming that freedom means free code, if code cannot be owned then it’s difficult to control, in other words: “to ensure democracy, code must not be owned” (Chun, 2006, p.67). This of course relates back to my previous post about hacktivism, hacktivism is a way to challenge power relations and power. It’s a way of using code to strike back at those who control it as a way to free cyberspace.
This of course leads us to the idea of governance. Can the Internet be governed? And if so, by whom? In the book Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance (2008) Jeremy Malcolm uses the Internet Governance Forum, established in 2005 to provide “a transparent, democratic, and multilateral process (…) for dialogue on Internet Governance policy” (Malcolm, 2008, p.2), as a basis for his reflection upon the topic. Malcolm notes, relating back to ideas of freedom that “modern-day hacker culture (…) in fact [is] largely coincident with open source culture” ( 2008, p.5) and that “all information should be free” (2008, p.216). But to get back on track, Malcolm argues that governance is not the same as government but rather “management” (2008, p.19). Which is something that I think most people can agree with, there needs to be some sort of management even in a free world. We are not, just like in real life, allowed to exercise our freedom in a way that infringes upon another individuals freedom.
In the end Malcolm lands in the idea of governance via networks including both state-actors and actors from the private sector as well as, and in my mind most importantly, actors from the civil society, which in Malcolm’s words “has a role in articulating and developing norms” (2008, p.26). Governing or managing the world wide web needs to be a multilateral project and relating back to the ideas of freedom and democracy–a multilateral OSS undertaking.
— Irina Bernebring Journiette