A segment of a social network
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“Third Tuesday” again, and around 65 people crowded into the Cafe bar to hear Frank Langbein and Peter Burnap offer some thoughts on the wider social significance of the internet – how it is remoulding social relationships, granting never-before dreamed of access to reams of information, and perhaps offering new opportunities for democracy. A key idea here was that the internet brings with it certain inherent properties, many of which are morally and politically somewhat ambiguous. The many-to-many nature of the forms of communication it makes possible represents a major shift in how human beings talk to each other, and produce culture. As such, it represents another step in the long history of media evolution and how different forms of communication have brought with them seismic political shifts. But with new-found capacities for creativity come unintended consequences: does it become easier to exploit people who create “content”, given the tendency for the products of cultural work to be shared or given away over the net? What does fair exchange mean, once the internet has made new forms of sharing of cultural commodities possible?

What effect will the possibility for anonymous communication have on the relationships of trust on which we generally assume social orders to be founded? Does freedom of information and the freedom of expression that comes with it  bring the potential for a breakdown of responsibility? Does information create apathy rather than liberty?  What might we make of the internet, and what might it make of us?

You can listen to the talks from Tuesday’s Cafe by clicking on the play arrows below.

Dr Frank Langbein:

Dr Peter Burnap:

Alternatively, downloadable MP3s can be found here and here.

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One thought on “The Freedom of the Internet: Audio Available”

  1. The real-time science and politics resonating through the internet was given a good airing this night.

    I kept wondering what the internet was. It’s one of those words that we use every day, but .. what is it? Is it a list of unconnected activities? If so, this makes the “internet” an empty idea.

    The answer from the speaker that the internet was a system of computers would place it as a tool. But I think we would be inclined to think that there was more to the internet than hardware.

    If the internet is a tool, then, we might ask, a tool for what?

    Which brought me to my second question this night: Aren’t we constrained in our activities on the internet not just globally, but locally? Censorship or control is everywhere. I used the example of moderated forums to illustrate local censorship or constraints.

    The answer that on the internet I could create my own freedom was initially promising but on later reflection, painted a dark picture. This answer indicated that …

    …we must perpetually fight against and change the internet to make it work for us. That is, it’s very nature is censorship, control, and constraint!

    And wouldn’t that make the activities on the internet no different to activities in everyday life? And perhaps that is why I wondered if there really was a unique activity or object we call “the internet”. Isn’t the “internet”, at the end of the day, no more than an everyday activity carried out in front of a screen? Have I missed something? Perhaps.

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