Protecting or re-inventing the Internet as Commons?
Highlighting the innovative work of The Chokepoint Project and its importance to the Commons of the Present and the Commons of the Future.
Today I received a message from George Por alerting me to The Chokepoint Project, (see introductory video here) that he had re-tweeted from P2P foundation founder Michel Bauwens. The Chokepoint team are members of the P2P foundation who have come together to investigate the terrain of internet ownership and control. This is a crucial project and a very exciting development in the realm of P2P society building. The goals of the members are:
1. Build a real-near time map that shows citizens directly the current state of the internet (its pipes and connections) and traffic flows, a dynamic responsive resource letting users easily tap on different countries, cities and determine their own levels of surveillance (where possible).
2. Explore new models for distributed Internet infrastructures for circumventing control by autocratic governments in favor of supporting local communities of people globally to possibly own and maintain their own connectivity. We also intend to explore where networked technologies might evolve into over the coming decades and what implications these may have on our ideas of nation states, corporations and citizens/groups of all shape and size.
This is certainly an ambitious project! At the very least this will provide us with an insightful and evolving map of potential threats against democracy. Among many other cases these threats have very recently included:
- Major internet blackouts in Egypt and later Libya,
- and various attempts to block websites by countries such as China - their most recent attempt being the cyber attacks on www.change.org who are campaigning to free the acclaimed Chinese artist Al Weiwei.(ref1)
The internet is a Commons of the present day, vital for true democracy to flourish, and therefore must be protected and cultivated as such. Of even greater additional importance is the need to protect and cultivate this Commons in recognition that it will be a bedrock for the future flourishing of a jointly managed, contribution based commons society. In my re-reading today of Christian Siefkes’ 2009 article, The Commons of the Future, he asserts:
“If such a future commons-based economy emerges, it will probably resemble the commons of the present more than the commons of the past: it will often use the internet for global cooperation and coordination; it will rely on the powers of automation and modern technology to make production easier and more versatile.”(Ref 2)
So the internet will play a fundamental part in any future commons based society but as you will have noticed - the words ‘if such a future’ - highlights the tipping point we are at today. In the video produced by Chokepoint the decision to shut down the internet, in Egypt, closely followed by Libya, caused shockwaves that were felt around the world; so what kind of shockwaves will be felt if influential people of developed democracies, like USA Senator Liebermann, get their wish and an internet kill switch is deemed acceptable?
Who owns the internet? Do we need to re-invent the way the internet is used and create an internet that in times of fast paced change can grow unhindered from rigid rules or private interests? Does ownership or external control have any place in an internet which is witnessing trends such as the conventions of the open field system and the licenses of free software?…
1. Chokepoints video presentation at this link with a full transcript at the bottom of their page.
2. Their website at http://www.chokepointproject.net
3. Their work on the Autonomous Internet Road Map
As stated in their video, the Chokepoint website will “function as a living record of internet ownership and control”. I am very interested in what develops from such a living community of visionaries, and in my opinion it is a project certainly worth keeping an eye on!
Let us use this page to post updates on what we are learning from this project and what it means for a future P2P/Commons based society.