[iDC] lambda lambda lamda

Martin Lucas mlucas at igc.org
Mon Feb 20 12:03:30 EST 2006

Brian's suggestion that legal means may be a route to controlling the  
net is quite intriguing.  It prompts me to think of how previous  
systems of communication have been defined.  To look at the  
decimation of the ecology  in the interest of the proprietary in  
radio for instance.

It is instructive to  remember that the radio acts of 1912 and 1927  
took a medium, radio, which  had two-way potential, not to say  
educational potential (e.g. in a non-profit universe) and defined it  
as a one-way commercial medium built around a few large monopolies in  
a clever way.  The effect was very thorough.  The 1911 Webster’s  
defines ‘broadcasting’ as a method of throwing seeds with a flick of  
the wrist, with no mention of radio, still seen as point-to-point.   
By the time of Brecht’s famous article on “The Radio  as a Method of  
Communication” in 1932, the notion of radio as a two-way  
communications tool has disappeared, and the heirarchical broadcast  
model is reified in a combo of software, hardware, legislation and  
financial arrangements.    The two-radio option was legislated into a  
geek ghetto for ‘hams’, a move that has some analogies in terms of a  
way of  culturally separating the politics from the technology in  
newer communications forms.

Brian goes on to suggest that the use of these legal means and   
public debate at least means the issues are discussed.  This is  
true.  It is a difficult discussion that is seen as esoteric.  (I  
remember Ted Byfield and DeeDee Halleck arguing at N5M4NYC about how  
useful popular campaigns on these issues are.)  My own experience  
with cable access legislation suggests that this kind of discussion  
is both difficult and necessary.  And unlike radio and television  
there is both the more utopian history and the larger weight of small  
players for the Net.


Marty Lucas

On Feb 20, 2006, at 5:44 AM, Brian Holmes wrote:

> Ryan Griffis wrote:
> What does decentralization really mean
>> in a proprietary ecology? maybe i'm taking this somewhere way out  
>> in  left field, but i guess i think this is important in relation  
>> to  potential crises (not unlike recent earthquakes and  
>> hurricanes, but in  a more mundane way, economic problems as well).
> I wish I understood the excursion into left field, because the  
> question itself is great.
> The idea provoking the question - Christian Sandvig's claim that  
> the Internet is centrally controlled because each major piece of it  
> represents an investment in routers and backbones - is partly true,  
> and I think, partly a simplification.
> The true side has to do with the specific agendas that have led to  
> each piece of the hardware being built and maintained by its  
> specific owner. This has been done partially on university research  
> mandates (with complex calculations about the benefits of national  
> and international cooperation), and partly on projections of  
> commercial benefit (with equally complex questions of speculative  
> investment for tomorrows that may not come). Of course all the  
> parties involved expected specific payoffs, and they still run  
> their systems for the benefits derived.
> Which of course means that the cables go to certain places, for  
> certain people, and all you have to do is look at a map of undersea  
> cables or a map showing the intensity of Internet connections  
> between the different areas of the globe, and you will see the  
> geographical expression of these specific interests.
> The ruse of history, however, seems to be that the university came  
> before the market and bequeathed a basic set of protocols which  
> don't involve control functions on what can be transmitted,  
> accentuating the possibilities of cooperation and resource-sharing  
> instead. Then the speculative boom meant that lots of hardware got  
> installed very fast, for use with these initial protocols.
> Now it seems that just technically blocking certain kinds of  
> transmission (eg. mp3, torrent, etc.) isn't possible, indeed just  
> turning off a website by remote control isn't possible either, and  
> yet the Internet has proved so useful for so many things that just  
> shutting the whole system down is out of the question. So the only  
> recourse is to go after the authors of the contested transmissions  
> using legal means. Which is a more interesting situation, because  
> it at least requires a public debate about what knowledge,  
> cooperation, sharing, use-value and freedom of expression are good  
> for. In fact that public debate has been one of the more  
> interesting aspects of life in neoliberal society in recent years.
> That would be the way I understand the paradox of "decentralization  
> in a proprietary ecology."
> Now it is clear, with Digital Rights Management and many related  
> initiatives, but also with Total Information Awareness, MATRIX and  
> probably many other spy-programs we don't know about, that this  
> element of partial decentralization is considered a big big problem  
> by some very powerful forces, particularly but not only in American  
> society. What will they do next?
> The perennial interest of the content-producing industries in  
> cables that can bring products right into peoples' homes, while  
> also conveniently providing a payment system directly attached to  
> the mode of delivery, was one of major commercial dreams initially  
> driving speculation on the Internet, and of course it explains the  
> interest these industries now show in "lambda lambda lambda," which  
> sounds like the real open sesame of video-on-demand. But you can  
> bet they want more control over transmission this time! Could that  
> not be the magic formula of Internet2?
> I'm afraid the ecology will get left in the dust by the  
> proprietary. But maybe I never made it to left field where the  
> really interesting part of the question lies.
> best, Brian
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity  
> (distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at bbs.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/

More information about the iDC mailing list