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net delusion

To win the cyber-war, look to the Cold War,”

Freud would have had a good laugh on seeing how the Internet, a highly resilient network designed by the U.S. military to secure communications in case of an attack by the Soviet Union, is at pains to get over its Cold War parent- age.

By the virtue of sharing part of its name with the word “firewall,” the Berlin Wall is by far the most abused term from the vocabulary of the Cold War.European politicians are equally poetic. Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, believes that dictatorships are fighting a losing bat- tle because “cyber walls are as certain to fall as the walls of concrete once did.

Things get worse once observers begin to develop what they think are informative and insightful parallels that go beyond the mere pairing of the Berlin Wall with the Firewall, attempting to establish a nearly functional identity between some of the activities and phenomena of the Cold War era and those of today’s Internet.This is how blogging becomes samizdat-- bloggers become dissidents--; and the Internet itself becomes a new and improved platform for Western broadcasting

Blogs are, indeed, more efficient at spread- ing banned information than photocopiers

the theory of the “domino effect,” so popular during the Cold War, predicted that once a country goes communist, other countries would soon follow—until the entire set of dominoes (countries) has fallen. While this may have helped people grasp the urgent need to respond to communism, this metaphor overemphasized interdependence between countries while paying little attention to internal causes of instability. It downplayed the possibility that democratic governments can fall on their own, without external influence.

The pitfall of metaphorical reasoning is that people often move from the identification of similarities to the assumption of identity— that is, they move from the realization that something is like something else to assuming that something is exactly like something else

The problem stems from using metaphors as a substitute for new thought rather than a spur to creative thought,” writes Keith Shimko

the problem with understanding blogging through the lens of samizdat is that it obfuscates many of the regime-strengthening fea- tures and entrenches the utopian myth of the Internet as a liberator

If there is a genuine lesson to be drawn from Cold War history, it is that the increased effectiveness of information technology is still severely constrained by the internal and external politics of the regime at hand, and once those politics start changing, it may well be possible to take ad- vantage of the new technologies

The Tits Show”


all your online activity is being secretly reported to an unknown party.

Most likely, the antimine activists, careful as they were, inadvertently hit a government trap that allowed the secret police to establish remote control over their computers. And what a trap it was: Someone broke into the server that hosted the website of the Vietnamese Professionals Society (VPS), a trusted diaspora organization, and replaced one of the 1586488741-Morozov_Layout 1 10/19/10 10:27 AM Page 144 Why the KGB Wants You to Join Facebook 145 most popular downloads, a simple computer program that facilitated typing in the Vietnamese language, to an almost identical file—“almost” because it also contained a virus. Anyone who downloaded and in- stalled the software risked turning their computer into a powerful spy and attack hub.

Such schemes have much in common with the design of the perfect prison, the panopticon, described by the nineteenth-century British utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

Why Databases Are Better Than Stasi Officers

Information may, indeed, be the oxygen of the modern age, as Ronald Reagan famously alleged, but it could be that peculiar type of oxygen that helps to keep dictators on life support. What reasonable dictator passes up an opportunity to learn more about his current or future en- emies? Finding effective strategies to gather such information has al- ways been a priority for authoritarian governments.

The Greek military regime, for example, tried to keep track of every- one’s reading habits by monitoring their choice of newspapers, thus quickly learning about their political leaning. The Greek generals would have loved the Internet

Tom Owad con- ducted a quirky experiment: In less than a day he downloaded the wish lists of 260,000 Americans, used the publicly disclosed names and some limited contact information of Amazon’s customers to find their full ad- dresses, and then placed those with interesting book requests

More important, the Internet has helped to tame the human factor, as partial exposure, based on snippets and keywords of highlighted text, makes it less likely for police officers to develop strong emotional bond- ing with their subject

The larger-than-life personalities of fearless dis- sidents that melted the icy heart of the Stasi officer in The Lives of Others are barely visible to the Internet police, who see the subjects of surveil- lance reduced to one-dimensional, boring database entries.