Time to Wake Up

Mushon Zer-Aviv

Freedom of information, much like freedom of markets, doesn’t “naturally” lead to the kind of freedom we hope for in society. In fact, in the past decade since the rise of the free culture movement, we’ve seen many costs such as time, attention and education shifting to the side of content creators while financial profit is centralized by the data-hoarding Internet giants that enjoy the reputation of information liberators. Google, for example, is considered a great patron for free culture, whereas in practice it cannibalizes the free culture that it monetizes, offsetting the costs of culture from those consuming it, and profiting from those creating it, and that’s us.

The technological principle that powers digital freedom of information, and that we celebrate through free culture and the creative explosion of the web, is the same technological principle that powers digital surveillance. We have to stop seeing these technological principles as “ready-made for culture” whether that be as a pre-made model for cultural exchange, or as a pre-made model for the end of privacy. This techno-determinism is a double-edged sword; it’s time to wake up and realize that the new possibilities and challenges posed by digital networks should inform the way we decide to live our lives, not dictate it.