201st Decade Technology Part 2 – Free Knowledge and Free Culture
For part 2 of our review of the the 201st decade best new technologies we turn to the internet and the forefront of the battlefield between a new form of communal and reciprocal ownership and the latest attempts at enclosing public space.
So it turns our writing a couple of thousand words on technology and it’s impact on society takes a bit of research, and where better to start than wikipedia. Wikipedia launched on January 15th 2001 so really can claim to have been invented this decade, within the first month by ordinal counting. I think we pretty much all take it for granted now but it’s really quite a radical model. Subsisting entirely on donations for those things they have to pay for but mainly on the goodwill and time of random people all over the world they’ve built up an encyclopaedia to rival even the best professional and paid-for productions. I still find myself consulting it when I start to research something new, it’ll always give a good overview, and while I wouldn’t normally quote it directly there’s normally direct links to sources and further reading and what’s more it’s licensed freely under Creative Commons or GFDL so content is always free to reproduce and distribute. If only the same could be said about all knowledge and culture – but more of that later perhaps.
3. Free Culture
Speaking of free culture I’m not really sure if you can call a movement an invention, or that it really started this decade, but Lawrence Lessig’s book of the same name came out in 2004, Creative Commons (CC) was founded in 2001 and, for this one I’m not cheating my brief, bittorrent was invented in April 2001. I lump these, somewhat related ideas people and technology together basically because I want to talk about all of them. I expect if I’m allowed to write here again copright/left and patents will pop up at some point so I’ll not dwell too long on the technicalities. Suffice to say I’m not a big fan of our current system of copyright that rewards the corporations large enough to use it to sue anyone who tries to listen to a band before they pay to buy a CD or go to gig, for which the band will receive far more compensation than they will for the recordings, that reduces creativity and forces many pieces of art to be completely inaccessible, even to those willing to pay. Thankfully some people are trying to change our relationship to owning information, by producing other forms of licensing and ownership that don’t make us all poorer – CC – or by offering us a way to bypass those not yet so enlightened – bittorrent.
For those of you who don’t know bittorrent is a protocol for communicating and distributing information over the web. Or as they describe themselves a free speech tool. It lets you publish to and download from thousands of people at once without ever needing huge servers to deal with ll the traffics. By splitting your files into small pieces and sending via many different machines the strain on the network is spread and the more people you connect to the faster the transfer rather than the slower. Torrenting now accounts for something around half of all internet traffic yet the MPAA and RIAA still think they can shut it down by suing individual torrent servers. As if evidence were needed that that wouldn’t work last week Alan Ellis, who ran the torrent site OiNK.cd, was just found not guilty of Conspiracy to Defraud the music industry by a unanimous verdict of 12-0.