The founding myth of the internet is freedom – primarily free as in speech, but with a healthy dose of free as in beer. The network was everything – small pieces loosely joined, as David Weinberger put it. That meant power would be distributed, the voices of all would be heard, and connections would be based on trust. As Tim Wu then pointed out in The Master Switch, that had been the hope in the early days of radio and television too, before rapid consolidation into a small number of conglomerates – and with every prospect of that being true for the internet. Seven years on from Wu’s book (and fifteen after Weinberger’s), this essay sets out the dystopian view of the result, weaving together the technology, the commercial consolidation and the political and ethical consequences into a challenging narrative.
The efficiency and effectiveness of government is often compared – usually unfavourably – to that of business. From time to time business leaders are brought into government to show how it’s done, usually to withdraw some time later without seeming to have had much impact. One reason for that is that leadership in government and in business make different demands – this post does a good (and non-judgemental) job of explaining some of the reasons why.
Politics, society and government are not separate systems, they are all deeply interconnected. Seeking to change one part without attempting to understand the wider system is unlikely to have the expected outcome. This article argues that social media and emergent organisation have moved on from being adjuncts to traditional political campaigning to supplanting them, resulting in a crisis of legitimacy for traditional politics, with inevitable consequences for traditional government.
Networks are a critical element of an effective civic society, at every scale from local communities to international relations. Like so much else, they are both challenged by wider social and economic change (some of the key traditional roles in holding communities together fade away) and given fresh impetus by it (in an ever more connected world). This interview introduces a book which sets out to reset the balance between getting things done through making strategic moves and getting them done by supporting, sustaining and using networks. Though as a couple of critical reviews on Amazon bring out, the book is inevitably as much a product of a network as the phenomena it describes.