The long game of freedom

Posted on January 15, 2011  /  0 Comments

We are part of an ongoing conversation with Amartya Sen, Randy Spence and others on the freedom-enhancing possibilities of ICTs in general (including the question of whether the conventional Internet is better than the mobile Internet in this respect). Looks like it is a bigger conversation. Last week Morazov’s book was reviewed, this week Clayton Shirky enters the fray.

Second, his essay distinguishes between short-term goals and long-term objectives. Most debates over cyberspace versus sovereignty get bogged down by looking for immediate effects. Mr Shirky rightly avoids this. He notes that the technology’s primacy is measured in longer time scales. Its importance lies in lowering the cost of communication and coordination. The argument goes like this: enabling people to communicate among themselves strengthens civil society. This in turn exposes the contradictions between what the authorities say and what truly exists—creating what Mr Shirky calls a “conservative dilemma” (employing a term from media studies). Thus the groundwork is set for reform. The technology simply helped it happen. (Mr Shirky cites Eastern Europe casting off communism to support his point, but the example is more than a bit exaggerated, as Mr Morozov explains in his book.)

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