allan siegel on Wed, 14 May 2014 18:04:37 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> democracy and decentralization


Well, there is a difference between actual physical control and the propogated illusion of control (thanks Brian for bringing Foucault back into the discussion - I have the feeling he never left).  If we accept or passively follow the various socialising paradigms where mega-companies such as Google exercise ‘control’ then we fall into that behavioral abyss charted in 1984 and other dystopic works describing the collapse or devolution of democratic norms. As, perhaps, (as indicated below) what is important is maintaining, continuous invigorating, the terrain upon which the totalitarian nature of the neoliberal hyper-capitalist infrastructure can be contested. In this context decentralisation of forms/means of communication are an imperative - without vibrant discursive social spaces reflective of the social needs and desires that permeate daily life we are only so much fodder for the GoogleFacebook singularity, one-dimensional, social mechanisms.

"Sonja Buchegger is leading a group of scientists at KTH who are creating building blocks that developers could use to launch decentralized, distributed networks, which would not only be difficult to interfere with, but would also protect people from government snooping.

"The internet itself is not centralized – it would be hard to shut down," Buchegger says. "It was built as a robust, decentralized tool to communicate; and we can do the same for other services that are now centralized, like social networks."

Whether the demand for such networks would go mainstream any time soon is hard to tell. Buchegger notes that it is difficult for most people to wrap their head around the notion that their personal information is exposed on web-based email and social platforms.

"The whole privacy issue online is very young, and the population is not used to thinking in this way," she says. "Offline, we know how to protect our privacy; we know who can overhear us; we see who is in the room with us and we know whether we can trust those people; but online we haven't really grasped who the audience is and how that changes over time." 

Buchegger's research is focused on the privacy issues of distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, that is, the underlying infrastructure for a decentralized system in which people could store their data beyond the reach of data miners or government surveillance."

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