Tuesday, 29 December 2009

BBC News - Keeping cyberspace open to the public

Bill Thompson doesn't want to see the online commons enclosed by private interests.

I recently had an opportunity to re-read a pamphlet I wrote in 2000 for a series on new thinking about mutualism published by the Co-operative Party.

In e-mutualism, or the tragedy of the dot.commons I talked at length about the co-operative basis of the internet, the need for online public spaces which are not controlled or dominated by commercial interests, and the opportunities that the network offers for mutual organisations of all sizes, from small co-operatives to retailers like John Lewis.

I pointed out that the internet is "an excellent example of the power of mutualism, having been created and managed through the co-operative effort of tens of thousands of individuals and organisations".

I also said that it "provides an infrastructure on which mutual organisations can thrive, opening up new potential for fast, effective communication and co-ordination of action, collaborative and consensus-driven decision making and global action."

Re-reading it now I wasn't too embarrassed by my ten-year old analysis. The recently-concluded Internet Governance Forum in Egypt reflects the net's continuing mutualist principles, while its organising power has been demonstrated many times in the last nine years.

We have seen political sites like MoveOn, campaigning initiatives like Avaaz.org and of course the growth of Facebook as the primary way teenagers like my son manage their social life and arrange their many parties.

BBC News - Keeping cyberspace open to the public
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