Berners-Lee on Nature and the Web

From Berners-Lee’s Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality:

. . . people seem to think the Web is some sort of piece of nature,
and if it starts to wither, well, that’s just one of those unfortunate things we can’t help.

Not so.

We create the Web, by designing computer protocols and software; this process is completely under our control. We choose what properties we want it to have and not have. (emphasis added)

Industrial Imagineering for an Informational Age

From Vice President Al Gore’s remarks to The Superhighway Summit at UCLA on January 11, 1994:

The pressure of competition on the information superhighway will be great — and it will drive continuing advancements in technology, quality and cost. Incidentally, when I first coined the phrase “information superhighway” 15 years ago, I was not prepared for some of the unusual images it would ultimately bring into our language. For example, one businessman made this point I’m making here about competition and the pressure of competition when he told me last week that his company was accelerating its investment in new technology to avoid ending up as “road kill on the information superhighway.” And just this week I received a letter from a group of companies wanting to be allowed to compete, who complained that they were scared of being “parked at the curb” on the information superhighway. (emphasis added)


Welcome to the informational: where jailbreaking your iPhone is a threat to national security, the global dominance of Goldman Sacks depends on government-based policing of proprietary trading code, and WikiLeaks is a thermonuclear device.

From the transcript of Andrew Marr’s interview with Mark Stephens (WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer):

ANDREW MARR: Now another thing that we read today is that he has a file, a further file of even more damaging and explosive information which he is keeping as a kind of insurance policy.

[ . . . ]

MARK STEPHENS: Well I think the problem is that they have been the subject of the cyber attacks, they’ve been the subject of censorship around the world and they need to protect themselves, and this is I think what they believe to be a thermonuclear device effectively in the electronic age. (emphasis added)

The nouns may change but the verbs stay the same.

-UPDATE 12.09.2010 @ 11:25AM-

In a Washington Post OpEd, the neocons at the American Enterprise Institute ratchet up the WikiLeaks/WikiWeapon rhetoric (h/t IGP Blog):

Like the war on terror, we have been attacked in this new cyber war in ways we did not anticipate . . .

. . . He recently announced through his lawyer that if he is arrested, he will unleash a “thermonuclear device” of completely unexpurgated government files. Think about that: Assange has threatened America with the cyber equivalent of thermonuclear war . . .

. . . If WikiLeaks is treating this as a war in cyberspace, America should do the same. The first step is to rally a coalition of the willing to defeat WikiLeaks by shutting down its servers and cutting off its finances . . .

. . . Governments that provide WikiLeaks with virtual safe havens should be told in no uncertain terms: “You are either with us, or you are with WikiLeaks.” (emphasis added)

From the same people that championed the Iraq War before there was a 9/11: You are either with us, or you are against us with WikiLeaks.

Mill on the Institution of Property

From Principles of Political Economy, p155-156:

We proceed, then, to the consideration of the different modes of distributing the produce of land and labor, which have been adopted in practice, or may be conceived in theory. Among these, our attention is first claimed by that primary and fundamental institution, on which, unless in some exceptional and very limited cases, the economical arrangements of society have always rested, though in its secondary features it has varied, and is liable to vary. I mean, of course, the institution of individual property.

Private property, as an institution, did not owe its origin to any of those considerations of utility which plead for the maintenance of it when established. Enough is known of rude ages, both from history and from analogous states of society in our own time, to show that tribunals (which always precede laws) were originally established, not to determine rights, but to repress violence and terminate quarrels. With this object chiefly in view, they naturally enough gave legal effect to first occupancy, by treating as the aggressor the person who first commenced violence, by turning, or attempting to turn, another out of possession.

Rose on Knowledge and Government

From Inventing Ourselves, p70-79:

Government depends upon knowledge. Not simply the knowledge of statecraft, which had been the subject if innumerable books of advice to princes in classical antiquity and in the Middle Ages. But a positive knowledge of the domain to be governed, a way of rendering it into thought, so that it can be analyzed, evaluated, it’s ills diagnosed and remedies prescribed. Such ‘representation’ has two significant aspects: the articulation of languages to describe the object of government and the invention of devices to inscribe it . . .

. . . Modern citizens are thus not incessantly dominated, repressed, or colonized by power . . . but subjectified, educated, and solicited into a loose and flexible alliance between personal interpretations and ambitions and institutionally or socially valued ways of living. The languages and techniques of psychology provide vital relays between contemporary government and the ethical technologies by which modern individuals come to govern their own lives.

Hardt and Negri on Property

From Commonwealth, p7:

Property, which is taken to be intrinsic to human thought and action, serves as the regulative ideal of the constitutional state and the rule of law. This is not really a historical foundation but rather an ethical obligation, a constitutive form of the moral order. The concept of the individual is defined by not being but having; rather than to a “deep” metaphysical and transcendental unity, in other words, it refers to a “superficial” entity endowed with property or possessions, defined increasingly today in “patrimonial” terms as shareholder.

Robbins on Political Ecology as Critique

From Political Ecology, p12-13:

As critique, political ecology seeks to expose flaws in dominant approaches to the environment favored by corporate, state, and international authorities, working to demonstrate the undesirable impacts of policies and market conditions , especially from the point of view of local people, marginal groups, and vulnerable populations. It works to “denaturalize” certain social and environmental conditions, showing them to be the contingent outcomes of power, and not inevitable.

… In this sense, political ecology is something that people do, a research effort to expose the forces at work in ecological struggle and document livelihood alternatives in the face of change.

Escobar on the Political Ecology of Technonature

From After Nature, p13:

A definition of political ecology for technonature would emphasize the biocultural configurations that are emerging and those that are possible according to particular constellations of actors, technologies, and practices. The political ecology of technonature would study the actual and potential biocultural arrangements linked to technoscience, particularly along the axes of organicity-artiflciality and reality-virtuality. It would examine discourses and practices of life and the extent to which they are conducive to new natures, social relations, and cultural practices. It is important that the ethnographies of technonature not focus on elite contexts only or on their impact on nonelite communities; they should also explore the locally constituted cultural and material resources that marginalized communities are able to mobilize for their adaptation or hybridization in the production of their identities and political strategies

Castells on Environmentalism and Ecology

From The Power of Identity (The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume II), pp 112-113:

By environmentalism I refer to all forms of collective behavior that, in their discourse and in their practice, aim at correcting destructive forms of relationship between human action and its natural environment, in opposition to the prevailing structural and institutional logic. By ecology, in my sociological approach, I understand a set of beliefs, theories, and projects that consider humankind as a component of a broader ecosystem and wish to maintain the system’s balance in a dynamic, evolutionary perspective.

In my view, environmentalism is ecology in practice, and ecology is environmentalism in theory . . .

From The Power of Identity (The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume II), p 133:

The ecological approach to life, to the economy, and to the institutions of society emphasizes the holistic character of all forms of matter, and of all information processing. Thus, the more we know, the more we sense the possibilities of our technology, and the more we realize the gigantic, dangerous gap between our enhanced productive capacities, and our primitive, unconscious, and ultimately destructive social organization.

Latour on Political Ecology

From the Politics of Nature, p246:

The term does not differentiate between scientific ecology and political ecology; it is built on the model of (but in opposition to) “political economy.” It is thus used to designate, by opposition to the “bad” philosophy of ecology, the understanding of ecological crises that no longer uses nature to account for the tasks to be accomplished, it’s used as an umbrella term to account for what succeeds modernism according to the alternative “modernize or ecologize.”

From the Politics of Nature, p4:

Political ecology is said to have to do with “nature in its links with society.” But this nature becomes knowable through the intermediary of the sciences; it has been formed through networks of instruments; it is defined through the interventions of professions, disciplines, and protocols; it is distributed via data bases; it is provided with arguments through the intermediary of learned societies.

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