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From the Electronic Brains to Blogs

By Demosthenes Kyriazis

 

Lately, the Press and the electronic Media have hosted various opinions and suggestions on the issue of Blogs and Bloggers.

To understand this subject it is useful to remind the principles and objectives of Blogs, as well as some key figures from the history of development of their technology.

 

The history

The technologies developed from 3000 BC until the early 20th century AD, were aimed at performing works that based mainly on human muscle forces; production technologies of mechanical work.

From the mid 20th century onwards, a new technology began to be developed, which aimed at performing works based on human brain forces; production technologies of intellectual work.  Such a work is the performing of mathematical / logical calculations and the transfer and the processing of information. The culmination of this technology was attained in the last quarter of the 20th century with the great development of semiconductor technology and digital technology.

 At first the technology of production of the intellectual work had legendary and oligarchic characteristics. The devices of the first generation of the new technology named “Electronic Brains”!!  The Electronic Brains of electronic valves and analog technology:

  • Were too expensive and economically unaffordable even for large organizations such for example the telecommunications ones.
  • Their housing and operation required the existence of an entire building with specifications of a surgery.
  • They worked in absolute independence, without the possibility of cooperation with other 'brains'.
  • The data to be introduced were, voluminous, transported by cars on the site of computer center and took the form of punched cards.
  • To write one page, one should have knowledge of PhD level!
  • So,  this technology of "Electronic Brains" was an oligarchic one, accessible only from the rich and highly skilled people

A few years later, the "first window of democracy" was opened in the use of the "oligarchs Electronic Brains".  This was done through the development and use of "terminals", with which more people were able to send and receive data from the “Feudal Lord Computer”, the Mainframe.   

In the early years, terminals and computers should be located in the same building and connected by appropriate cables of relatively short length. Thus the first computer networks, the so called local networks, LAN (Local Area Networks) have been created.   

Later the length of cable increased.  Terminals and computers could now be located in different buildings of a region, in a research center, a military base, a university campus. They were the wide area network, the so called WAN (Wide Area Networks).

At that time, early 1980s, the technology of PCs (Personal Computer, PC) has been developed. The PCs are low cost machines that have the same possibilities as the big computers but less powerful processing force, something similar to the autobuses and the private passenger cars.  

The PCs now got the place of helots-terminal. But the PCs now have the same design philosophy and the same basic ability, opportunities and responsibilities with the “feudal lord computers”. The democratization of computer technology had begun.

The areas of WAN month after month grew further. Then it was proved that the cost of the computer networking became greater than the cost of these computers themselves. 

This serious problem was solved by using the telecommunications networks, with which we can create, quickly and with negligible extra cost, the WAN of a city, of a country, of many countries, all over the world. So the networking of computers has exploited the existing infrastructure of the telecommunications networks.

 The optimization of the cooperation of telecommunication networks - computers, was an international strategic goal, and was realized through the famous "Global Convergence of Telecommunications and Informatics".

The results of this convergence are numerous and significant but the top result is the creation of an international network in which all computer networks (all WANs) are interconnected; a global Network of networks. That “Network of networks”, named INTERNET (INTERactive  NETwork). 

The services provided to the users of Internet are numerous, but the most important ones, can be summarized as follows:

  • Accessibility to official and authoritative sources of information (libraries, centers of service providers, of research, etc.).
  • Services of shipping / receiving of personal information in form of text, voice, sound (music), video, data. (E-mail, voice)
  • Services of shipping / receiving massive information data initially in text form and later on all of the above forms (Websites and Blogs) as well as in broadcast radio programs and, very soon, in television programs (WebTV).

 

The massive but passive information from the Media  

In traditional telecommunication means any citizen has the ability to send and receive information to another elected citizen.  The information is personal and interactive.  

In Media the information are sent from a few people but can be received by all citizens. However the ordinary citizens do not have this possibility in practice. So, the information of citizens is passive, is not an interactive one for the vast majority of the population.

In Media, all citizens can receive mass information, but ability of sending it has only a few people who dispose: Money, expertise and the scarce natural resource of frequencies. This possibility is in practice impossible to exist by all citizens, even if the state law permits it. The technology of conventional Media, by its very nature, its economic and operational characteristics, is of an elitist and oligarchic nature that provides possibility for transmitting massive information by a few citizens only; by the owners and executives of Media. That is why has been called the Fourth Power.

 

The massive and interactive information from Internet.  

Dream of humanists and pursuing of technocrats was to develop a technology that ensures to all citizens economical and operational feasibility of sending, receiving, and processing mass information in all forms:  voice, audio, text, image data and video. 

This dream became true with the Internet technology and, in particular the problem of sending mass information, with the Websites and their Blogs.

 

Websites

Websites or simply Sites are a location on the web (Word Wide Web, or www) of Internet, where one can "publish" information for mass destination at low cost and with simple and democratic procedures.

The history and the democratic performance of websites look like those of the FM radio stations of the new technology.  

The older readers will remember that the problems that currently exist with the TV existed previously with the radio; oligarchic presence of radio, complaints for discrimination, complaints for undemocratic functioning, controversies.

After the release of the institutional operation of radio stations, but especially after the "democratization of economical characteristics of the technology," the complaints stopped. This is due to the increase of the number of radio stations.

 

E.g., in the 1960s, throughout Greece 10 AM radio stations were in operation, while today operate 1301 more FM ones.  Due to the improved technology the democratization of Media in radio is obvious and approximately measurable.

The creation of sites, which began in Greece in the years of the 90s, was from the beginning in conditions of genuine freedom and democracy. To create a website neither a frequency nor a license is required. Besides, the cost of creating and running a website is much less than that of a FM radio station. Worth mentioning that the cost of creating a website with a proprietary computer (server), starts from 1500 to 2000 Euros, but with 2.5 Euros per month, one can have a personal web server from an Internet service provider.   

Other advantages of the websites are:

  • Global reach "broadcasting", while the range of an FM radio station is from 50 to 150 km only and.
  • The sending of information in text, voice, music, data and video, while radio stations can only transmit voice and music.

For all these reasons, the number of websites in every country is much bigger than the number of FM stations.  

Although there are no official figures on the exact number of websites, because creating a website is done without any authorization or declaration, it is estimated that this number is of the order of many hundred thousand. And this happens today. What about tomorrow?  

From the above it is evident that the innovation of web ensured to all ordinary citizens, or even to the most of them, the economical ability to send mass information, something which, until now, had only few; the owners and the executives of the Media.  

In Websites, besides their owners, other citizens can “publish” information. But this publication is indirectly controlled by the owners. In order to post an article or massage on a Website, you need to send it (usually in digital form, by e-mail) to the owner of the Site, which has the ability to publish it. The same what happens in the Media. 

 

Blogs

The term Blog is an abbreviation of the words weB and logs (Blog) and could be translated as the diary of World Wide Web (the www) visitors.  

The Blogs are a variant of Websites having three additional democratic characteristics compared with the latter:

(1)   Zero setting up and operating costs for all ordinary citizens.

(2)   Very  simple and fast creation and

(3)   Ability to direct publication of messages from all ordinary people/ guests of Blogs, same as the owners of Blogs, Websites and Media have.

These are easily, fast and free implemented in Blog infrastructure of' small and large service companies of internet, for example in the blogspot.com of Google. 

It is estimated that currently in Greece more than 40.000 Blogs exist. What about tomorrow?  

 

The problem.

Lately they were heard several conflicting opinions for the Blogs e.g. as highest democratic breakthrough in technology, but also as a means of promoting irresponsible and defamatory publications.  

The cause of this problem is the big advantage of blogs, that is, the possibility of direct posting messages from all citizens. The mission of the e-mail of the blogger automatically implies its appearance without any other process control.

But this democratic option provides the ability to make also anonymous posts. This is because in the computer blog the e-mail of the sending computer is introduced and not that of the sender citizen, and because the sending of an e-mail can be done not only from a personal but also from the public computers (e.g. by an Internet café, or info-kiosk computer). Something similar to what happens when we use public telephone sets.  

Sometimes anonymous messages mean irresponsible ones. Some other times, however, anonymous messages may be of good-natured (e.g. the publication of literary works under a pseudonym), or a selection of emergency and protection (e.g. the complaint of unlawful acts of people who have great power and control our lives). Let us not forget also that the state itself, in some cases, encourage and protect anonymous information.

 It should be clarified that possibility and purpose of blogs is the sending mass information by all ordinary citizens, and the sending anonymous or malicious information is the responsibility and choice of every man.

This is about the problem of Blogs, which as expected, gave birth to the following question:   Must we accept the possibility of anonymous and malicious posts on blogs, in return to the fact that all ordinary citizens have direct and free shipping of massive information? Or need we to cancel this feature by taking steps of controlled operation of weblogs?

 

 A view and proposal

In our opinion, the aforementioned problem, basically it is not the publication of anonymous and potentially malicious information on one of the blogs, which, usually,   have a small number of visitors. The real problem is the deliberate and irresponsible adoption of this information from trusted and famous citizens; it is the deficit of rationality, responsibility and morality of those "trusted citizens", who transform an anonymous piece of information of low reliability and low dispersion into named information of high reliability and dispersion. This is the real cause of the problem and not the potential of Blogs; this man behavior should be canceled by appropriate institutional measures.

Such institutional measures can be, for example, the following:

  • The classification of messages in the blogs, as messages at cafe, as “posts of low credibility” for which the existing provisions concerning the publication of false, malicious and defamatory information don’t apply. This approach, which is justified by the inability to control the identity of the publication, essentially coincides with what is currently practiced.
  • The designation of broadcasting and the use of this low reliability of information as crimes, which will be punished in accordance with the applicable law, unless the person, who transmits or uses it, assumes full responsibility by demonstrating its reliability. The alibi of blogs should be canceled. In this way, the blogs will obtain a useful and high destination: they will become nurseries and means for the promotion of eponymous and reliable sources of information, as envisioned by technocrats and humanists.
  • The creation from the state of a "National Blog", where citizens can publish in their own name any information with the same ease and freedom that exists in conventional blogs. This can be easily ensured by current technology.  

As some wise said, the problems in Democracies can be solved only in one way: with more and more authentic democracy.

To incriminate a technology that has been the dream of technocrats and humanists, because some of us use it for evil purposes, constitutes a senseless, short-sighted and ineffective act. The ordinary Greek people say: When the donkey is to blame, we don’t hit donkey's saddle. (Corresponding English proverb: You can't blame the mirror for your ugly face.).

 

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