Sunday, October 12, 2014

Andrew Keen

Still thinking about Kaja Silverman's talk the other night. Specifically her thesis: how photography has always been with us, even before its invention.

Yesterday morning I listened to a CBC radio interview with Andrew Keen on the latest phenomenon in our "sharing" economy: Uber. But it was what Keen said at the outset that stuck with me: how the internet's lack of regulation -- or rather, the lack of regulation at some of its "sharing" sites (from uploaded music to airbnb) -- has nasty consequences. Not just for artists whose work is distributed without remuneration, but for Uber users who think nothing of stepping into a stranger's car.

Although I have yet to read the details of Silverman's argument, it seems her idea of photography, or the photographic, involves a particular set of criteria that we are unaccustomed to associating with the medium.

When the question of criteria is applied to the internet, I am now thinking of it less as an "information super highway," as it was originally billed, or a robot-patrolled surveillance/data accumulation service, as it has become, but as a celebration of the (government) deregulation that took root in the west in the mid-to-late-1970s, which resulted in attacks on the welfare state and, ultimately, what comforts us when we think of democracy: electing representatives to look after our best basic human needs -- with empathy and compassion.

Perhaps what I am saying sounds naive, a duh moment, as it were, but that is how I am now thinking of the internet: not as a game-filled free playground, but an advertisement for a libertarian tomorrow. That this advertisement might feature a smart phone, a stranger's car and a road to hell is wholly apropos.

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