Ronda Hauben on 15 Feb 2001 15:57:17 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Usenet archives sold?

From: "Paul Alfred" <>

>S. (Sam) Kritikos wrote:

>>Folks, Ronda has the right idea here. I was wondering whether there are
>>any people here interested in exploring the idea of developing such an
>>organization or working with existing organizations in order to preserve
>>Internet archives?

>"Say, that fancifully idealogical idea is swell!  Does anyone else have any 
>interest in doing the legwork to find some generous benefactor to foot the 
>bill so that we accomplish the exact same thing some capitalist entity is 
>going to accomplish anyway?"

The point I am making is the opposite. That business entities with bottom
line considerations aren't able to make the decisions that will support
the archiving, dessimination and scaling that Usenet and the Internet
require for their development.

The public library or academic library in the US has taken on such a
responsibility. In societies there are other forms of institutions than
corporations that are needed to serve the needs of citizens, to provide
for the public welfare.

And the Internet and Usenet have grown up out of those very institutions
themselves. However, in the US (and perhaps other countries as well)  in
the last 5 years there has been a form of slaveholders' rebellion where
suddenly there are not to be any institutional forms other than the
corporate.  See for example

In the US there is a government research institution like the National
Science Foundation that is charged with providing for the support of basic
research in science and technology. And ARPA was created for a similar
purpose and was able to perform the function with regard to the
development of computer technology in a very significant way. In the US it
had been the government that would be in a position to provide for
institutional forms for science and technology that would look ahead 10 or
20 years.

Corporations only look ahead 3 years in general.

To subject all the institutions of society to the viewpoint and
capabilities of corporations is to distort the society.

Government officials in the US, for example, have a constitutional
obligation to provide for the public welfare and the national defense.  
When Bush was inaugurated he said that charities would take on the public
welfare, not the government, or that government would fund charities.  In
the US it is government's constitutional obligation to provide for the
public welfare, neither charities nor corporations nor religious groups
can be substituted if that constitutional obligation is to be upheld.

But in the past decade (or two) the emphasis of the US government has been
oriented to how to help corporations prosper, not how to provide for the
public welfare.

It is important that the public institutional forms, the public purpose be
reinvigorated, not that one claim that because this is capitalism this is

Citizens, not corporations are where sovereignty lies.

In the US this is a piece of the constitutional crisis that is facing US
society. When corporations prosper they get stronger and more powerful and
they seek to influence government and other institutions so that they
prosper further.

But corporations don't have a long range perspective. They don't look to
the future for the society. The society has developed other institutional
forms like public libraries and academic libraries to help provide for the
dissemination of printed literature.

It isn't that we expect companies to provide for libraries.

The digital forms are new forms. They need new institutional forms to
provide for their development. They need new public and academic
institutional forms.

Instead we are suddenly faced with the situation that corporations are all
that we are offered and only the narrow kind of activity they are capable
of will be allowed for the development of the Internet.

This not only flies in the face of the birth and development of the
Internet itself which came out of government supporting computer
scientists, supporting researchers in academic and other research
institutions, but also this flies in the face of the current development
of society.

>This Usenet argument isn't an argument about Usenet, or copyright, or that 
>kind of stuff.  It's just an expression of people's feelings toward 
>capitalism.  If we're going to debate this, let's debate the relevant 
>argument --- is capitalsim bad?  Does capitalism ruin the things that we 
>like because it is capitalism?

Are you are saying that public libraries are about people's feelings
toward capitalism? Somehow this narrows down the question to a world where
only corporations are able to exist and there are no social institutions
only corporate ones.

There would be no Internet or Usenet if what you seem to be saying were
the case.

Those with the view that the corporate sector is everything would probably
agree with what you are saying, but they are only a very narrow sector of
modern society.

>Or maybe it's just about elitism.  Does making a resource more available to 
>the masses ruin it for me because I am no longer a cool, unique individual 
>for using it?  Believe me, I felt the same way once Dave Matthews Band 
>became popular.

It's not that the corporations can or have made the Internet available for
the masses. In the US the free-nets perhaps set out to make the Internet
available to the masses but they needed more government support (and the
view that there was a need for government support)  to have succeeded.

The narrow kind of corporate focused - "big pipe into the home and small
pipe out" that the corporate sector has as its vision is *not* the

The corporate sector could create Compuserve, for example, not the
Internet. Compuserve didn't succeed, the Internet did. The myth of
corporate capability with regard to what is needed for Internet
development, is a significant myth.

If corporations were so capable they would be supporting the development
of the needed research to look 10 and 20 years forward for the development
of the Internet. They aren't so capable. But too much of the public
resourcs is going to support the corporate activity.

>No, this is probably more about capitalism.  Let's discuss that if we're
>going to discuss this subject at all.

Then the discussion should be focused on corporations, not on what is
needed for the public dissemination and development and scaling of Usenet
and the Internet?

To the contrary, it would be more fruitful to look at how the Internet was
created and developed, at how governement can fruitfully support basic
research and what kind of basic research is needed for the scaling and
development of the Internet and Usenet.

What is needed to get access available to all.

There is a need for a public agenda, not to endlessly discuss the
corporate agenda.


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