David S. Bennahum on Tue, 9 Jun 1998 21:47:09 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Question: Europe on the internet?

>So I would like to post a question: What is European about the Internet, 
>or what can we do to make the internet European, or what does a European 
>do on the Internet (except surfing to European commercial sites?)

As a gleeful american, I can say that I don't know what "european" means-- what
for instance do Holland and Bulgaria share in common other than a vague memory
of being run by Romans 2000 years ago, and a common location on a vast piece of
land called "europe"?

The quest for a "european" identity on the internet just seems irrelevant,
since europe is still very much a collection of nations with different
languages and cultures. This caveat aside, there is one thing europeans could
do: end all VAT on computers, computer networking hardware and software, and
end all local minute telephone charges, and forbid any restrictions on the
acquisition of personal domain names. For instance the as-usual-stupid French
government forbids French people from registering .fr sites for personal use.
This sort of arrogant, pro-business, anti-individual hubris is an excellent
example of dumb, neurotic, protectionist, internet policies. In france that
means French people must register personal domains in the USA, as .COM or
whatever, or in some other country, further reinforcing the jingoist french
neurosis that the internet is another anglo-saxon conspiracy to trammel on the
their culture, and turn it into an extension of WalMart (As a dual-national, !
French-American, I vote in French elections and retain the right to insult,
when appropriate, the country where my mother was born and I lived for six
years).  Removing VAT, lowering phone rates, removing restrictions on domain
name registration for individuals will create a climate where "europeans" other
than companies can create, maintain, and expand their own web sites, with all
the attendant cultural diversity that comes with this sort of multi-personal,
heterogenious free-for-all.  

Trying to foster all this with some foggy pan-european commission of chatty
committees addressing vague concepts like "cyberspace and the european
identity" will produce lots of pretty documents, and some good times in various
hotels, but won't do much else. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

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