By solle on 30/07/2013 — 4 mins read

Writing, printing and the internet give a false sense of security about the permanence of culture. Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead

We perceive gargantuan change and revelation through a prism of the ramifications and impact it has on our status quo and what we consider important, reasonable and stomachable. And by way of this relationship we are also numb and surprisingly (and in fact shockably) unsurprisable.

Where we’re headed is more layers and even more layers of this. Running and hiding from the other. Layers of complex nodes and circuits and sub layers and islands connecting and disconnecting searching for different concepts of freedom. All entwined and shifting and tightly packed with the NSAs and the giant internet influences directed to know what other layers are going to think before they are even thought.

“The ultimate goal of signals intelligence and analysis is to learn not only what is being said, and what is being done, but what is being thought. With the proliferation of search engines that directly track the links between individual human minds and the words, images, and ideas that both characterize and increasingly constitute their thoughts, this goal appears within reach at last. “But, how can the machine know what I think?” you ask. It does not need to know what you think—no more than one person ever really knows what another person thinks. A reasonable guess at what you are thinking is good enough.” George Dyson

This likely Balkanisation of what we understand to be the internet is as though the creation of a state of nations, a balancing of power, a balancing of internet influence and intelligence. A reordering of what, who and how. A breakup. Trust and security has to keep starting over. Rather than a system that is open, free and flat what we will get is one that is more fragmented. More hilly, more disconnected. Away from a connected internet. This usually happens when things get too big. An inevitability.

The internet isn’t going to rip apart, it already is loads of parts. The network is always changing – structures, nodes, centralisms, controls, responsibilities, freedoms. A network can be and will be disruptive but as one part is broken, cut out, other parts, new nodes, will repair and reconnect, probably not in the same way or from the same angle or with the same agenda but nevertheless reconnect, merge, connect and the network will continue, grow and change.

It’s the present big players that fear this change, this rip apart, this change in focus. The possibility that more people will care and be educated and take it upon themselves to take control and responsibility for their networks and not trust and put them in the hands of big, powerful, establishment, US-centric players. The economics of the internet need to rebalance, register an evenness. The future of openness and freedom is a true democratisation of the internet not necessarily an open internet. (This isn’t anti-American, this is pro-balance.)

Many who call for an open internet reside in the so called democratic west where the balance of influence and power and control of the internet resides. Its influence is huge. Its structural influence is huge. Its technical influence is huge. Of course they will call for an open internet, an internet that they majorly influence. It makes perfect sense. If the balance of influence and power and control was more widely and fairly distributed across the world, their influence would be considerably less and their cultural export would be less impactful. The open internet is a lie.

Dissenting voices in regard to the Silicon Valley reach must not only emanate from the edges. (The ones shouting from the balconies of embassies should not be alone in being heard.) More of us in the middle should be grumbling rather than occasionally sighing. We, The Middle Users, must get questioning and poking sticks and not accepting. We don’t have to accept the cultural reach of Silicon Valley. It is no different than Coca-Cola’s massive reach of networked world distribution. We don’t have to accept Silicon Valley’s influence (like the aggressive CIA support of US culture with a capital C in the middle of the 20th Century). In many ways it is similar. The influence. This is how it works.

The questions we have to ask ourselves are do we feel as strongly as we think we do about real democracy? Are we confident that that is what we want. Are we maybe not more prone to feel safer and protected by some form or flavour of privacy-less oppression? Think carefully before you answer. This upcoming Balkanisation will undoubtedly lead to splits in service, clampdowns and even darker days of privacy invasion. Certainly before anything gets better. It will probably feel like a lose lose situation. Though I think one day in the not so distant future it will be a better place.

“The paradox of contemporary culture obsessed, at once, with being seen and with being hidden, a world in which the only thing more cherished than privacy is publicity… There is no longer a public self, even a rhetorical one. There are only lots of people protecting their privacy, while watching themselves, and one another, refracted, endlessly, through a prism of absurd design.” Jill Lepore

As this has played out over the last few months the focus is always elsewhere and the real subject inevitably goes so very very quiet. And so the story goes.

I haven’t always been the greatest fan of John Naughton but he picks it up well in this article Edward Snowden’s not the story. The fate of the internet is

When we talk about technological futures we will talk about geography. Geography is already the new frontier of technological advancement and innovation.

And this is why I’m following Moonlet with great interest and optimism. This is where we are heading (well where I’m heading)… and this as well.


//somewhere in england


I am a user centred design leader working across senior design leadership teams and user centred design operations. I work across a wide range of digital services within the public, private and not for profit sectors.