Toni Alatalo on 2 Oct 2000 21:37:56 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Al Gore and the Internet

Vint, nettimers

It was good to read this note and, at least for me, it made it's
purpose: brought up facts on the issue that I'd only heard jokes about.
But it also got me thinking about some quite serious issues related to
the development of the Internet and current World Politics - something
that mr. Gore is very much involved in.

I try to make my point clear and concise in the following, looking
forward to replies:

On Fri, 29 Sep 2000, vinton g. cerf wrote:

> Bob and I believe that the vice president deserves significant credit
> his early recognition of the importance of what has become the

So: what has the Internet become?

Isn't it many different things? Which of these has mr. Gore worked for?

Sure, the Internet is based on open, global standards and is all in a
way unified - in the IP address space. It is an enabling technology, or
technologies, for many great things; one of them the fact that I can
write this to you ;)

But, as you know, it's not only about technology. As a founding father
of not only the network itself, but also the Internet Society and more
recently the ISTF (Internet Societal Task Force, for those who don't
know) you have surely seen it from many perspectives - some of which I
can have only the faintest ideas about.

What has mr. Gore, and more generally, the U.S. government done from
these viewpoints?

Thinking of the Internet Society, one central theme has been connecting
the so-called developing countries, or "the 3rd World" (although some
might view e.g. Africa as the 1st world - isn't there the origin of
human kind?). From what I've learned in the ISOC Developing Countries
Symposiums is that this has been quite a success: in the 1990's the
purple colour (true IP) of Internet Connectivity maps has reached
virtually every country on earth (not to mention outer space ;). There
are plenty of problems (lack of Internet eXchange points, to mention
one) but progress has been immense, hasn't it? And the flourishing
western businesses have been supportive, funding the workshops ISOC has
organized for the Internet People of developing countries etc.

So what's the point? Geography is definitely one perspective - the
American Internet being much different from the African and South-East
Asian ones - but it seems that (with the lead of ISOC) the US government
and businesses have been supportive for the development globally, a
point you took in the end of your message.

So what's the problem? Well, let me put it this way: why did the people
get on the streets in Seattle, or more recently, Prague? It is the terms
of this globalization. The Digital Divide?

Apart from the geographical perspective, there are others: societal,
cultural - economical, political .. and probably something that this
kind of classifications don't grasp. To illustrate the point from an
Internet perspective, it's easy to see how different the worlds of IRC,
MUDs, the Usenet and mailings lists like nettime are from, say,
e-Commerce in all it's varieties. A concrete example is the use of DNS:
the current web and e-mail use it for addressing, but IRC and Usenet
less so - and Hotline, Napster & Gnutella hardly at all! So, in a way,
these are very different Internets, all on the Internet.

I guess the very nature of the 'net is to allow for various parallel and
overlapping, even conflicting, worlds - as long as there's "rough
consensus and running code" as the IETF brilliantly puts it. But as the
issues have become political, how does this work? Can the societies
route just route around problems, all having their way? It seems that
this is not the case.

There are conflicts. So, I guess this is finally the question I should
ask (tadaa!): when the groups currently fighting against the WTOs and
IMFs target ICANN, where do we - the Internet Society - stand?

When I see notes like
([Random-bits] DNSO election for ICANN board seat) passed around, that
day does not seem far away. How do we relate to mr. Gore then?

Can the Internet remain neutral (not to mention: benefit everyone) if
there's a major clash of interests? Just look at the power of corporate
forces in the ICANN board and how the alternative ones are marginalized,
and compare with the activities in those alternative fields (the
GNU/Linux-movement, the anti-WTO etc. demonstrations?) elsewhere.

It is interesting, and perhaps comforting in all this confusement of
mine, that the Internet is in fact currently "for all" - enabling both
the WTO and countermeasures. It is both a global marketplace and helping
people to organize to question it, "glocally".

For someone like me, who doesn't know where to stand in that
overwhelmingly complex(ified) issue, the Internet feels like a good
place to be - in between. Mediating? Is this what you are up to, as
well, and what the Internet Society is about?

And if so - is this why ISOC is being criticized for being so crippled?
Tossed around by stronger powers, with definite agendas (the process
that lead to ICANN being an example?).

Sorry for the length of this - I hope it didn't get all blurred.

Humbly Yours,
Toni of

..also a part-time (crippled) CEO of the Finnish chapter of ISOC
<> and a full-time researcher (overwhelmed) in the
project OWLA <> and a father (worried) to a newborn
an-org-an-ism <>

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