Most public & media stories for the last decade or so about ‘the internet’ ; whatever that is; are alarmist and use ‘memes’ (look it up!) to attract attention. ‘Bad for children’, ‘harmful to your brain’, ‘incites sex and violence’, cybercrime, identity theft, snooping, undermines authority of teachers and parents, generates evil radiation etc.etc. The only things I did not yet see is that the internet makes you obese, impotent or makes your hair fall out, but that may come.
And at the same time young digital-native people have started to kind of live on Internet. have you tried to call your (grand)children, or email them or reach them on Facebook? Forget it. Their world consists 24/7 of : Twitter, YouTube, Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat, Instagram, Fitbit, Spotify, Netflix, Dropbox, WhatsApp, Nest, Box, Hulu, Pinterest, Ebay, Skype, Alibaba, Marktplaats, Wikipedia, Eduroam, Wi-Fi, Bleutooth, LTE-4G, IX’s, Pokemon Go. Al of which did not even exist 12 years ago.
Also there is the ongoing circus of national governments insisting that ‘the internet’ should be regulated by laws and controlled & policed since they perceive it (what?) as an insecure & chaotic and an anarchic mess. The ISOC.org , RIPE and the NRENs of GÉANT do that quite well, thank you. Also the big enterprises in Telecom, Media, Social Media, Ecommerce and business advertising make regulation themselves as if ‘the internet’ is focussed only on making money for them; with Apps , cloud-computing and brand marketing.
So instead of presenting more doom and gloom and other Morozov‘s about Internet I present here some recent positive and constructive views on The Net.
2. The view of the public on ‘the internet’
The problem is that most of the about 4 billion users of internet, wireless or wired, have not been given even glimpses of what Internet is beyond what they see on their smartphone / tablet/laptop screen: Apps and World Wide Web (WWW) screens connected to serverfarms in clouds (vague right?). Well, there is much more behind the screens !!! And Yes ‘the internet’ has a huge impact on our lives, society and economies !!
3. So, what is internet ?
Can we teach kids and parents, business-persons, public servants and politicians what it is? Or at least give interesting views of journalists and other spectators about it.
- IMHO Internet = the most complex worldwide communication system ever built by humans, with the help of computer science, electronics and optics. It grows exponentially (with repeated fixed doubling times [connections: 18 months; datatransport volume: 24 months; connection speed: 30 months] as if its a life form in Nature. Some people say that Internet is the nervous system of our planet, part of a Global Brain under construction in which we are the well-connected braincells ~ jaap van till
May be true but my definition does not directly give much handles for action or policy instructions.
The formal definition (which I checked with my fellow internet technology engineers) is posted on an earlier blog of mine:
It’s not a network, or a Thing of any kind. Part of the agreement is to exchange routing information. In order to reduce conflict, IANA assigns address blocks. Networks, however, advertise what address blocks they carry, and this is not normally checked against IANA. So IANA address block lists are there to advise in case of conflict. If however people stopped trusting them, they might look elsewhere, or (heaven forbid people give up Authority and think for themselves) make their own decisions on whom to trust.
Likewise with names: DNS is a distributed database. Users (or the DHCP servers they implicitly trust) point their resolvers at a name server, which points up the chain at others. This is all voluntary — they don’t have to point to the ICANN roots, but do because those are the ones everyone uses, and using other roots, which exist, increases the chance of conflict. But if the public lost trust in ICANN, they could move to another root. It is just adatabase of registries.
This is totally unlike the PSTN ((Public Switched Telephony Network)), whose name scheme (E.164 numbering) is laid out by ((ITU)) treaty, and whose networks are in fact ((national)) government-controlled. An internet is voluntary; the PSTN is a public utility. Big difference.
(– quoted here with permission of Fred R. Goldstein, Interisle Consulting Group, USA –)
While this definition is X-tal clear to the guys and girls who installed and run The Net and to the ISOC-IETF and ISOC-IAB (Internet Achitecture Board) standardizers and overseers, the general public may not feel any safer by this “voluntary agreements” definition.
4 Recent publications/presentations
So I am happy to present here three recent appreciative and descriptive publications from which kids and general public can derive some imagination what Internet is and which can give relevant handles on future directions of improvement.
4a. Very useful book about the social lives of NETWORKED TEENS: <People>
“It’s Complicated ” – the social lives of networked teens – danah boyd; 2014, Yale University Press. What is so unique about this book is that danah has LISTENED to the kids all over the USA, to form a picture about what they do online & offline. Quite different from what teachers, parents and academics usualy had assumed with their outdated own youth as a background. This is an indispensable book, even when the cool and uncool things change rapidly, spreading like viral flu infections.
4b. Video about Art and Knowledge on Internet <Knowledge and Information>
See the video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHyxZF1ZNks about the ART sharing and the huge CULTURAL & society impact of Internet.
4c. Article in Nature about the digital infrastructure on which Internet works. <ICT and Telecom Networks>
At last a story for the general public about the “pipes” and “pumps” in the digital infrastructure. And where fabric may get congested because of the avalanche of mobile data-use and growing filetransfer and demand for video streaming services.
Another way to draw this “pipes and pumps Layer” Nature graph is :
===================== drawing FCC======
=============================End of FCC drawing=============
5. A more formal model of the Layers (stack of platforms) of the Internet.
From the presented three publications 4.a, b. c you can notice that they represent stories about:
a. <Connected People>: Changing relations between children that together weave communities of interest;
b. <Webs of Knowledge>: Impact of new Content & Culture exchanged on internet;
c. <Physical Connections & ICT processing>: lightlinks & wireless network connections carrying datapackets between millions of Serverfarms, routers, switches and computers;
a,b and c are quite different realms and each of them change at different paces. It therefore one of the design & policy rules for the Internet Society & infrastructure to keep these Layers (or Platforms) as agnostic as possible from eachother. So the influence between changes in content or organization or bit pipes do only influence the other two in the sense of quantities. The same effect was achieved in road construction new types of vehicles should not dictate new roads. And neither the other way around. Same with transport containers: content and types of transport are relatively independent. This idea of agnostic Layers/ platforms, network neutrality and prevention of vertical integration allow us to improve parts of the internet without having to rebuild large sections of it. It accommodates changes and innovation. That is how the internet could scale and grow for decades and absorb unexpected new things. Yes it now transports video streams, computer-computer transactions, (mobile) telephony and soon also datafloods of the Internet of Things (IoT) and of interconnected things on and in our body.
This “layered approach” to ICT infrastructure changes and improvements is recommended networks architects and national (telecoms) regulators to keep “The Internet” up to date and capable to cope with attacks from corporate of nation state short term interests.
6. What is at stake to fight for: the worldwide free flow of ideas and safeguards to (re) connect the bubbles.
People like it to get their beliefs/mindsets confirmed rather than having to change their beliefs even if they can be shown to be false. That is why groups of people flock together and confirm each others beliefs into what they call ‘bubbles’, closed off from other ideas or critique. “Us against the evil them”. This is a natural process but can lead to fear, isolation, lack of learning & progress to adapt to changing environments and hostility to others and other cultures outside the bubble. The free flow of information and idea’s on Internet is vital for the stability of our planets population and vital for survival of our ecologies. The bubbles should be open and interconnected for cooperation. Weak link people ( btwieners, I called them) play a vital role in the interconnection of bubble tribes. And the free flow has a political and legal foundation:
Definitions of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
The right to freedom of opinion and expression is enshrined in
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The right is enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights gives the right to seek, receive, and impart ideas.
ARTICLE 19 works so that people everywhere can express themselves freely, access information and enjoy freedom of the press. We understand freedom of expression as three things:
1. Freedom of expression is the right to speak
- It is the right to voice political, cultural, social and economic opinions
- It is the right to dissent
- It makes electoral democracy meaningful and builds public trust in administration.
2. Freedom of expression is freedom of the press
- It is the right of a free and independent media to report without fear, interference, persecution or discrimination
- It is the right to provide knowledge, give voice to the marginalised and to highlight corruption
- It creates an environment where people feel safe to question government action and to hold power accountable.
3. Freedom of expression is the right to know
- It is the right to access all media, internet, art, academic writings, and information held by government
- It is the right to use when demanding rights to health, to a clean environment, to truth and to justice
- It holds governments accountable for their promises, obligations and actions, preventing corruption which thrives on secrecy.
SILENCE GIVES CONSENT
Originally found within Plato’s Apology, this brief but powerful maxim has become the rallying cry for the war against authoritarianism. Law can only be enforced with the consent of the people; therefore, all unjust laws are directly enabled through political complacency. By giving into the corrupt jurisdiction of disreputable governments, we grant them access to plunder our core humanity. Only with our voices and commitment to exposing their depravities can we break the silence, which in turn shatters the system itself.
In other words Art.19 and 20 establish the Right to Interconnect
Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist