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<nettime> The Shape of Nets to Come - Screen Texts
richard barbrook on Mon, 7 Jan 2002 20:23:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Shape of Nets to Come - Screen Texts

<The Shape of Nets to Come>

//// The Cybersalon/ NMK Christmas lecture /////

Richard Barbrook

Tuesday 18th December 2001




 Screen Texts


"Not to lie about the future is impossible and one can lie about it at
will" - Naum Gabo, Realistic Manifesto 1920.

474 million people are now on the Net.
Almost 1 in 12 of the global population.

What's your e-mail address?
Check out this website.
I bought it on the Net.
You are now subscribed to our listserver.
Do a google search for it...

1989 was the end of history - the collapse of the Stalinist utopia.

1995 was the rebirth of history - the emergence of the Net utopia.

information superhighway
virtual worlds
electronic democracy
virtual community
collective intelligence
Gaia mind

The information superhighway was a future which was already thirty years old.

Marshall McLuhan - global village
Daniel Bell - post-industrial society
Alain Touraine - post-industrialism
Zbigniew Brzezinski - technetronic society
Simon Nora & Alain Minc - telematics
Alvin & Heidi Toffler - Third Wave
Jean-François Lyotard - post-modernism

..or maybe it was only twenty years out of date?

hi-tech neo-liberalism
off-shore banking
friction-free markets
perfect competition
heroic entrepreneurs
symbolic analysts
strong encryption
digital money
weightless economy

There is no such thing as the information society - there are only
individuals and their firms buying and selling information.

The dotcom boom was more about financial engineering than information

Dutch tulip craze
South Sea Bubble

Speculative over-investment can create permanent improvements in the

Railway mania
Radio boom

Do you want proof that the Net is at the "cutting-edge" of the economy? The
dotcom firms were the first into the recession...

The enthusiasts have had their fun. Now it's time for the big boys to take

Embrace and Extend
Command and Conquer
Resistance is futile, we will assimilate you!



Future 1:

When everything is changing, everything must stay the same.

New media is old media redux.

Interaction means pressing more buttons.

There is no need to know how your machine works.

Media deregulation is the prosecution of Napster.

Welcome to the Digital Panopticon - the copyright police are watching over you!

What good is a digital music file which can't be used for DJ-ing, sampling
or re-mixing?

If political censorship of the media is unacceptable, why are there still
laws enforcing economic censorship?

Do you really want Bill Gates spying on your desktop?

Big Daddy Mainframe is the baddie from a late-night sci-fi movie.

The motor car is not a horseless carriage.
Radio broadcasting is not wireless telegraphy.
The Net is not interactive TV.

The secret is out: the Net was invented to share information.

Future 2:

Peer-to-peer computing

Computer scientists built the Net in their own image.

The academic gift economy:
Giving an article to a journal.
Presenting a paper at a conference.
Evaluation, comparison, collaboration.
Peer review.

Proprietary hardware and copyright software are annoying technical bugs.
Open architecture and open standards are the best fixes.

"Information wants to be free" - literally.

Peer-to-peer computing isn't the next big thing on the Net.
It is the Net!

If the US military couldn't stop the geeks from taking over the Net, why
did anyone think that the music biz would more successful?

"Copyright industries are the handloom weavers of the twenty-first
century." - Wall Street Journal, 2000.

Why can't I buy some old media on-line?
Who will pay the piper when the music is free?
Is the Net only for smart young people from developed countries?

Geek.net is another sci-fi fantasy:

The shape of the Net to come is...

'The Shape of Things to Come' - H.G. Wells' future ruled by a scientific

Future 3:

The Net inspires beautiful paradoxes and weird ironies.

Let's celebrate contradiction!

Software communism depends upon hardware capitalism.

...and lots of other cool gadgets.

Hardware capitalists are profiting from software communism.

Sony Music may prosecute Napster...
...but Sony Electronics sells MP3 players.

"Rip, Mix, Burn" - Apple ad, 2001

The Digital Panopticon is bad for business.
...except the copyright business.

Copyright industries are 5% of GDP in the USA.
Office work is 50% of GDP in the USA.

Would your company trust its trade secrets with Bill Gates?

Would your company sacrifice the Net to protect the music business?

Would you hell.

The question is not whether the Net should be commercial or non-commercial...

The question is: what sort of mixed economy will emerge from the Net?

The moment of the Net utopia is over. We must live with its messy
compromises between private, public and community initiatives.

Welcome to the really existing Net.
Not perfect, but improveable.

Since the Net can't be turned into a corporate monopoly...
...the corporation will become more like the Net.

Network communities aren't just for Dungeons & Dragons fans.

Free software creates jobs for techies.
Who else is going to install, maintain and improve it?

>From product to process.
Commodities co-existing with gifts.

Selling a relationship with an artist rather than a piece of plastic.

The state paid for the invention of the Net.

It still has work to do:

More intelligent copyright laws.
No legal aid for the Digital Panopticon.

More sophisticated telecoms regulation.

How can there be a mass market for e-commerce if the masses aren't on-line?

BT is the Railtrack of telecommunications.

Creating competition in 19th voice century telephony isn't the smartest
method of building the 21st century Net.

Let's update some public service goals for telecoms regulation:
Unmetered calls.
Universal Net access.
Broadband for all!

Education, education, education.
The Net was born in the universities - and has never really left home.

The Net was built to store, sort and disseminate knowledge. Every other
function is just a plug-in...

What the academics invented, the amateurs popularised.

Every hobby has its website.
Every obsession has its chatroom.
Every perversion is celebrated.
Every political position is propagated.

...and it's your choice whether to check them out.

TV enforces the passive consumption of programmes by viewers.
The Net encourages interactive creativity between its users.

Not just looking at someone else's website, but also making your own.

The Net is the do-it-yourself media for the DIY culture.

Not only creating your own on-line projects, but also finding other people
to work with.

The Net is exploring the potential of technology.

Don't clog up your computer with bloatware.
Install something smarter and funkier.
Discover what's not in the manual.
Develop the next big thing.

Open source.
Open standards.
Open architecture.
Open future.

Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Centre
School of Communications and Creative Industries
University of Westminster
Watford Road
Northwick Park


landline: +44 (0)20 7911 5000 x 4590

mobile: 07879-441873

"While there is irony, we are still living in the prehistoric age. And we
are not out of it yet..." - Henri Lefebvre

The HRC is involved in running regular cybersalons at the ICA in London. If
you would like to be informed about forthcoming events, you can subscribe
to a listserver on our website: <www.cybersalon.org>.

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