In my blog post I referred to a John Perry Barlow article from 1996 where he predicted a utopian, euphoric world where the Internet would thrive and would be “more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before”. But he was not alone in his views as Bruce Sterling agreed with this notion. However, fast forward eighteen years and Sterling has realised where he went horribly wrong with his debate – he forgot about greed.
As the technological world develops faster than we can imagine; creators, visionaries and individuals with money are changing the intrinsic and extrinsic values that the Internet once held – such as being fair and open. And this is why Barlow and Sterling’s previous arguments are invalid is because of ‘walled gardens’.
Walled gardens – as explained by my lecturer Ted Mitew (2014) – are closed, hierarchal, central databases that exist online where access is controlled, filtered and monitored so as to secure their system and lock content to the platform. These gardens are then considered stacks. Stacks are vertically integrated system where information is shared between between the parent platform and its multiple sister platforms. The easiest example would be Google. Google itself is a walled garden as it is designed to hone your search based off the information that you have provided. Stacks come into play when examining Google+, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps and the Google phone. But stacks are not the Internet; Sterling (2013) explains them as, “vertically integrated globalised internet structures used by millions.” Furthermore, “stacks have livestock, the Internet had users. Nobody on the Internet knows you’re a dog”.
It was at this point, I became confused as to whether I was studying vet science and intelligent animals or digital cultures. But alas, we continue.
Information is not free, it’s owned, controlled, filtered and monitored by the owner of the garden and in turn creates big business for advertisers and this is what I believe, both Sterling and Barlow could not predict – the immense power that advertising has. Stacks have livestock meaning that their users are monetary raisers, it is an economy based on information. The information that we provide in turn provides these stacks with an insight into what we like and dislike – based off what we search, click and share – which then helps advertisers target us specifically.
A recent example is Twitter who, in 2011, wanted to become a semi-closed platform – similar to Facebook. It would see the social networking site amplify its amount of sponsored tweets per day as well as integrating more advertising as Ben popper examined in his article.
As the title suggests – from John Mayer’s Vultures – suggests, power is made when power is taken. This – to me – is what closed networks stand for; it is their intrinsic nature to do so. You do not deserve the power so we will not give you the power. But does this have to be the future for the Internet? Are we really going to hand all power over to someone who does not care if we are dog, robot or human? Does it really come down to money?
Mitew, T 2014, ‘The Feudalisation of the internet, Lecture, DIGC202, University of Wollongong, viewed 4 September 2014. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1IEq3uHKh8&index=19&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j>
Popper, B 2012, ‘Twitter Follows Facebook down the walled garden path’, The Verge, 9 July, viewed 7 September 2014, http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/9/3135406/twitter-api-open-closed-facebook-walled-garden
Sterling 2013, Webstock ’13: Bruce Sterling – What a feeling!, online video, September, Webstock, viewed 3 September 2014< http://vimeo.com/63012862>