Berners-Lee

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)

Apple is the Medium and the Message

According to AppleInsider*, Apple has purchased a mobile ad company, Quattro Wireless, for $275M and named Quattro’s CEO as the VP of Mobile Advertising. Apple is now in the hardware business (Macs, iPods, iPhones, etc), the software business (OSX, Safari, QuickTime, etc), the transmission business (iTunes, App Store, MobileMe, etc), and the content business (Quattro Wireless). At first glance this doesn’t look so bad, as Apple doesn’t have a traditional (i.e. industrial) monopoly in any one of these areas.

However, having substantial influence in each of these areas – from medium to message – starts to look a lot like an informational monopoly. After describing the four horizontal layers of the WWW — transmission > hardware > software > content — Tim Burners-Lee describes his concern with “vertical integration“:

I am more concerned about companies trying to take a vertical slice through the layers than creating a monopoly in any one layer. A monopoly is more straight forward; people can see it and feel it, and consumers and regulators can “just say no.” But vertical integration — for example, between the medium and content — affects the quality of information and can be more insidious.

Apple certainly isn’t alone, Google immediately comes to mind . . . and Microsoft, but to a lesser extent since they’re more of a traditional monopoly.

* h/t Michael Oman-Reagan.


Berners-Lee on the “insidious” quality of vertical integration

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, on the “insidious” quality of vertical integration:

The Web’s infrastructure can be thought of as composed of four horizontal layers; from bottom to top, they are the transmission medium, the computer hardware, the software, and the content. … I am more concerned about companies trying to take a vertical slice through the layers than creating a monopoly in any one layer. A monopoly is more straight forward; people can see it and feel it, and consumers and regulators can “just say no.” But vertical integration — for example, between the medium and content — affects the quality of information and can be more insidious.

— Weaving the Web, p130

outtake: governing the semantic web

Another outtake from the article Cindi Katz and I have been writing on the relationship between U.S. children and young people and their technological environments in the post-9/11 security state:

In their pursuit of both national and homeland security as well as the creation of new markets, the state and corporations are engaging the free-flowing horizontal communication which takes place in cyberspace, with the aim of reworking its architecture into a Semantic Web. The Semantic Web has been primarily conceptualized and developed by Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web. The Semantic Web can be understood as a sustained indexing of cyberspace, whereby information is semantically coded in order to be processed and interpreted, across various platforms and programs, through “automated” analysis. To semantically code and then circulate this data, Web ontologies are developed and adopted which rationalize and categorically conform information in order to establish relationships. Most prominent of these ontologies is the Web Ontology Language (OWL). As cyberspace is semantically codified, both the state and corporations have moved to develop methodologies to utilize the Semantic Web for more efficient surveillance – often framed as “data mining” or “market research.” Particularly notable has been the Department of Homeland Security’s “Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement” (ADVISE) program, defined as, “a data mining tool under development intended to help the Department of Homeland Security analyze large amounts of information. It is designed to allow an analyst to search for patterns in data—such as relationships among people, organizations, and events—and to produce visual representations of these patterns” (United States Government Accountability Office 2007). In reformatting cyberspace, the Semantic Web makes information more locative, circulatory and integrable. In doing so, this reformatting enhances cyberspatial navigation but also erodes the qualities of cyberspace that have functioned to protect the privacy and anonymity of cyber-surfers.

NOTE This “outtake” and its relation to the larger paper, from which it was eventually cut, were inspired by two earlier posts: “what they want is an automatic feed” and (young) person of interest.



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