Aaron Swartz Prodigy

January 16, 2013 Comments off

Nelson Swartz Engelbart

Aaron Swartz deserves high credit for lots of things, not the least of which was, at age 14, being able to identify the other two guys in that photo, and their value as role models.

Much needs to be explored about Aaron’s commitment to the ethic of open source hypermedia. But, for now, here is some of the insightful content I’ve come across in the wake of his death.

This blog post and..




As we shall think

January 8, 2013 Comments off

Not quite what Vannevar Bush had in mind.

Reid Hoffman on Ubiquity

November 1, 2011 Comments off

I may quibble with Reid Hoffman and John Battelle in parsing the differences between Web 1.0, 2.0, and so on, or on the nature of explicit data vs. implicit data vs. shadow data, but, when it comes to summing up the most important long-term shift in our material and cultural reality, Hoffman’s take on ubiquity definitely nails it.

As I watched this video and thought about the coming Age of Ubiquity, it occurred to me that the generation born in this decade could properly be called Generation U. By the time they reach young adulthood, human society will be permeated by hyperconnectivity. At least 2 of the planet’s 7 billion people have Internet connectivity today. That will easily double by the end of this decade, and those connections will be considerably richer than anything we have yet experienced. Another 2 billion or so will be children for whom expectations of joining a culture of hyperconnectivity will be as natural and expected as getting right-sized shoes and clothing as they grow. So there will be at least 6 billion hyperconnected humans by 2030.

It it’s true, as I expect, that Generation U will be raised in a milieu characterized by persistently ubiquitous public exposure, I can’t help but wonder if peoples’ merciful treatment of each other will keep pace with their capacity to know each others’ every error and trespass.

Anonymous Voting and Internet Governance

September 26, 2011 Comments off

Here’s a short paper by Robert Bodle being delivered to the IGF/Giganet in Nairobi that addresses some of the key points in the online anonymity debate. I haven’t spent enough time with it to weigh in with a useful response, but it seems to offer a solid foundation for starting a conversation.

“Upholding online anonymity in Internet governance: Affordances, ethical frameworks, and regulatory practic…

Measuring the Digital Space

August 31, 2011 Comments off

I’ve been half-monitoring CPSR’s Internet Governance list since my dissertation writing days. The activity of the conversation seems to be picking up recently. That often signals that something big and relevant is happening in realspace, but I’m not on top of current events in IG enough for intelligent speculation about what that might be.

In any case, Michael Gurstein started a very intriguing thread titled, “Re: [governance] MEASURING the digital space – whose MEASURES apply, and whose do not.” So I chimed in.

Michael Gurstein’s reflection on “what and whose measures apply in the digital space” strikes me as very productive. Having been curious for quite some time about the extent to which the advent of the Internet compares to the advent of the movable type printing technology, I’ll offer this conjecture about the implications.

Key measures of human agency in the pre-Westphalian era in Europe included concerns such as who could get into heaven and who could legitimately be crowned king, queen, prince, etc. The socially accepted chain of authority generally led up through officials of the Holy Roman Empire as the effective gatekeepers of such things. (Keeping in mind that any given Pope and his appointed agents claim to be acting as proxy for a divine gatekeeper.)

The Gutenberg revolution facilitated the emergence of sovereign royals — and ultimately sovereign nation-states — who were, among other things, gatekeepers of national citizenship, contractual regimes, and property rights within bounded territories.

In both cases, given this view of things, gatekeepers played an essential role conferring agency within a social structure. Gatekeeping roles will be no less important in the densely internetworked future. That why there was such a big fight over DNS administration… possessing one’s “name” was once considered essential to having an effective presence on the Web. Now we see battles between Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, other private operators, and also various state-controlled social networks, all vying to be the gatekeeper of one’s authentic presence on line.

In all of these spaces, pre-Westphalian, Westphalian, and post-Westphalian, there’s a consistent concerning with counting who is an agent and measuring the relative powers of those agents.

Jeff Jarvis on Publicness

August 23, 2011 Comments off

Publicness is a reasonably OK term for what I call hypersourcing. There was just a fairly long thread on Google+ about the video embedded below. I don’t know how to link the whole thread here, but here’s what I contributed.

When people all live in glass houses will they finally learn not to throw stones?

The shift we’re about to go through is likely to be even more significant then the one sparked by Gutenberg. As the modern practice of privacy collapses, humans will be forced to confront the extent to which our common security ultimately depends on fostering a culture of compassion and mercy.

Our species has confronted that challenge before. See Karen Armstrong’s “The Great Transformation.” The real question is whether we can master that lesson in an enduring way this time around.

Web History on the Way

August 22, 2011 Comments off

With luck, the preamble to Purpose Driven Web will be online in a week or so. It’s not particularly long, but most of my free time has been going into upgrading and polishing the suite of ranked choice voting tools that I’ve been developing.

In the meantime, here are a couple of more links commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Web. This one, from the Economist, strikes me as far better than most that have been published, but some of the reader comments reflected disappointment. And another, from Business Standard, also does a fair job presenting the basic facts and raising the implications. Interestingly enough, Tim Berners-Lee got some well-deserved celebrity treatment, when an online magazine pitched at the “over 50” crowd named him as an inspirational figure.

Categories: Web History

Web History Improved

August 9, 2011 Comments off

I found a couple of other reports about the 20th anniversary of the Web that seem to do a better job than the ones mentioned in my previous post. This one, from the BBC, is a bit cheery, but certainly fine for your mum. And this one, from a site called TheNextWeb.com, is more detailed, in order to set up a promo video about the semantic web.

Categories: Web History

Rewriting World Wide Web History

August 8, 2011 Comments off

The 20th anniversary of the public announcement of the Web passed this weekend. I’ve seen two mentions of it in the press so far, both of which got some basic facts very very wrong. And both were from authors at technically-oriented sites where writers and editors alike would presumably know better.

The first, at TechCrunch, announced the 20th anniversary of the Internet. The title was changed after readers complained. But the URL for the article still has it wrong.

The second, at Wired, claims that the first webpage was published on August 6, 1991, and misleadingly cites CERN about the location of the page. Of course, that page was in operation for some months before the project was announced on USENET. That announcement, in my view, should be upheld as the key threshoid event for the Web. Berners-Lee, on the other hand, prefers to commemorate late December 1990, when his code began to run.

It’s lamentable that so few people even bothered to recall this significant date. August 6th 2011 was also the 46th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, and that got some deserved attention. But most media observers (and Google’s Doodle) were consumed by recalling the 100th anniversary of Lucille Ball’s birth. She was undeniably a great talent and performer, but which of these events will ultimately prove to have a greater impact on our lives over the coming days, years, and centuries?

Categories: Web History

Ray Tomlinson and the Origin of @ on the Internet

July 26, 2011 Comments off

Keith Houston writes about punctuation, which makes him exceptionally well qualified to consider the origin of @ on the Internet.

Of course, the operative nature of the @ symbol makes it difficult to include in a link.

Categories: Internet History