jueves, septiembre 09, 2010

Shana Tova, Jonathan Zittrain - on generativity and on-the-ground activism for an open Internet

For_Zittrain: Shaná Tová, Jonathan Zittrain

I have been invited to an online symposium on Jonathan Zittrain’s book “The Future of the Internet and how to stop it” – a high honor since the list of participants is well above blue-ribbon:

Steven Bellovin
M. Ryan Calo
Laura DeNardis
James Grimmelmann
Orin Kerr
Lawrence Lessig
Harry Lewis
Daithí Mac Síthigh
Betsy Masiello
Salil Mehra
Quinn Norton
Alejandro Pisanty
Joel Reidenberg
Barbara van Schewick
Adam Thierer

I have only a slight chance to make a contribution worthy of Jon’s book and of this panel so will modestly try.

When I first read Jon’s book I thought that his concept of generativity was too fixed in a USian law framework. I have had some chances to share analysis and discussions of a variety of Internet issues in the ISOC Board of Trustees and understand better where he’s coming from and aiming at.

We definitely need far more people to read Jon’s book. They don’t have to buy it whole. They only need to see the wealth of examples and arguments in favor of open – open platforms, open networks, open standards.

Yes, if Jon had had a technologist coauthor he may have written a slightly different book, in which you’d be more sure that lofty ideal and grand scheme do get a more solid grounding. Yes, if Jon had been around ISOC and the construction of ICANN he would have more concrete examples and arguments about the dilemmas one faces when actually having to put pieces together and preserve the generativity. But then, probably Jon’s book would also be more flat-footed and less inspirational and that would be a loss.

I have been campaigning for a few years now, thanks to many lessons from teachers better than I am, for an understanding of the Internet before making or influencing policies and decisions that may affect it irreversibly. In my own realm I have worked through ISOC Mexico and through ISOC global and through ICANN and through several other jobs and undertakings to keep the Internet open, interoperable, widely used, an enabler.

My luck includes having started actions like the #InternetNecesario campaign with a few enlightened friends. In October 2009 a large community, fired up by its understanding of the initial message and its own love for the core principles of an open, unfettered Internet, managed to partially stop a tax initiative that would class telecommunications and Internet access in Mexico as a luxury.

This good fortune also accompanied me to organize a panel on core values of the Internet in the FutureWeb meeting associated with the W3C meet earlier in 2010 and let the world hear from the voices of total originals like Scott Bradner, Bill StArnaud, Parry Aftab, Nathaniel James, and Danny Weitzner what these values are.

The word “generativity” may have gone unspoken but interoperability, end-to-end, an understanding that introducing intelligence in the network instead of at the edge reduces everybody’s freedom and stifles innovation, and the many risks of optimizing networks for single purposes came through loud and clear.

For this value we’ve gone out and stopped the 3-strikes “graduated response” law initiatives and supported the new legislation in favor of class actions #AccionesColectivas and confronted overreaching intellectual-property protection such as in #3strikes and #CanonMX and #ACTA. Not to brag about stopping stuff; we build, we work, in schools, in small businesses, in NGOs, in research centers; why, yes, some in government. We are the multistakeholder stakeholders.

This week in Mexico City we have restarted a discussion on a Digital Agenda for the country. A group of us see the continuing discussion in risk of becoming sterile to such a level that we have started to ask for an edge-inwards (not only bottom-up) shaping of the national programs – be they a national broadband plan, or programs to introduce digital content into schools, providing seed capital for technology ventures, what have you.

The point is now not to wait for an always-coming-tomorrow top-down program but to shape the national agenda by small actions and an edge-inwards discourse. Maybe, Jon, you’d find some interest in this change of metaphor, to complement the top-down/bottom-up coordinate.

We went to Campus Party Mexico; our young, more than 6,000 of them, spent a week swimming in a sea of endless bandwidth and far more endless comraderie and space. A generation is being shaped. They are entrepreneurial, techy, savvy, bloggy, twitty, smart, committed, fun.

Yes, they flirt, drink, smoke, download (like mad – massive download is the basal metabolism of digital youth), copy, share; they fight, the argue, they swear. And also, the mod, overclock, build, develop, mash up, code, photograph, film, network, socialize on and offline and all degrees in between, game, learn, teach, team, excite, galvanize, push forward, break through. They are the new flat, the new open. A source of energy and will.

So maybe, Jon, you may feel in good company with the thousands of good-faith, technically informed people who are tireless in pushing for the open, interoperable, and, did I forget to say – OPEN Internet?

It doesn’t happen in the US but it happens. We don’t say “the Internet is necessary” but #InternetNecesario. We connect. We think. We speak. We have kept the Internet open. We will keep it so.

May we, Jon, a year from now, drink to a more open, more generative, more generous Internet, and to a new Shaná Tová.

8 comentarios:

  1. Alex,

    I would have preferred to read the "slightly different" version of the book. A book where the arrogance of the "illuminated king" could be revisited into a book that could embrace (if not, at least, acknowledge): a) that the Internet is international; b) and the open, bottom-up and multi-stakeholder governance processes have merit.

    His idea of a closed cupule of illuminati, in which he (as principal) and a few selected others are to solve the most pressing problems of the generative Internet (and that is where "the application of money and encouragement" is to be destined --see page 243) is... just... offensive to those many that humbly and voluntarily have been working for open, inclusive, international and democratic governance models for the net. Nothing can be more centralized, degenerated and anti-Internet than the redemptionary solutions he is promoting.

  2. We are the multistakeholder stakeholders.

    And reading your post, just makes me feel more proud of being part of the great new generation. The same that you describe and I like to call digital-hippies.

  3. You did manage to contribute, as you always do. Thank you so much.

  4. Thanks for this post, Alejandro, and for your participation in the symposium. I'm still digesting a lot of what was shared there.

    On Pablo's comment, I like the idea of "open, bottom-up and multi-stakeholder governance processes" -- indeed, I think that would count as falling within the "fourth quadrant." But if that's shorthand for ... ICANN ... I'm much less sanguine. ...JZ

  5. Jon, you may be jumping to conclusions twice:

    1. once, in putting words in Pablo's (or anyone else's) mouth,

    2. ICANN may be better understood, and turn out either better than you imply, or harder to achieve in those terms if they are correct.

    I am sad to have read in the last few days that the Berkman Center's approach to its ongoing ICANN review is found "too theoretical". But not surprised. What can we do to contribute a true infusion of the realities out there?

  6. Jonathan,

    Your book doesn't speak about ICANN, at all!

    However, it talks about "diplomatically styled talk-shop initiatives like the World Summit on the Information Society and its successor, the Internet Governance Forum". Efforts that internationalized the Internet Governance scene and brought into action the missing rest of the world that is now connected.

    Efforts that, in your words, "rarely gets to the nuts and bolts of designing new tools or grassroots initiatives to take on the problems it identifies."

    I have strong doubts on your suggestion of substituting this "parade of meetings and consultations" with a closed, selective and degenerative "later-day Manhattan Project" with illuminated Platonic kings and appointed hackers.


  7. Hola Alejandro, escribo en respuesta a un post tuyo del 17 de Enero del 2010 !!!!. Mil disculpas que no reviso mi blog (P1aticas Tecnol0gicas) con la sistematicidad que amerita. Mi nombre es Esteban Contreras Vázquez y mi e-correo es:


    Estoy a tus órdenes, para comentar, colaborar, proponer.

    Pongo el post que hice, para recordate de qué hablo (no tengo remedio).