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"We Don't Have the Internet We Think We Have"

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, December 13 2010

That the Internet we have isn't necessarily the one that popular conception holds that we have was an argument that popped up at Saturday's PdF event on Wikileaks. Author Doug Rushkoff gave voice to it in his talk, captured above. The gist of Rushkoff's argument: that Wikileaks has thrown into sharp relief the fact that while we might imagine a decentralized, peer-to-peer, distributed global network, the reality is that the Internet as we know it circa 2010 is a top-down one heavy on gatekeepers and corporate shaping.

In her talk, Katrin Verclas of Mobile Active offered some historic perspective to the speakers and assembled crowd. The debates over how the Internet should be structured, and how that architecture should evolve, said Verclas, are debates that have been going on for decades. (See, for example, organizational efforts like those around ICANN and W3C, advocacy work done by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press, and policy debates like those happening at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, to pick a few.) "Please, let's take into consideration what's come before us," said Verclas, "rather than reinventing the wheel -- for the fiftieth time."

That said, you can make the argument that what this Wikileaks episode might do is push those debates and concerns out beyond the small circle of folks who spend considerable time paying attention to the state of the Internet and out towards a wider portion of folks who simply use the Internet without necessarily giving it much thought.

Give a watch to Rushkoff's talk above.