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.