Monday, May 15, 2006

Socialist Software

Ulises asks, "But how do we challenge the hegemony that has been coded into the technology?"

The important step is to recognize that it has in fact been coded into the technology, which means that the challenge to the hegemony can also be coded into the technology.

My own view is that a denser and more distributed network of connections acts directly counter to the hegemony, because it lessens the influence and importance of the central nodes. This is the view I try to advance in Community Blogging.

In particular, the sorts of network applications that will promote just such a network can be, again in my view, identified via four salient properties:
- autonomy - they empower individual users
- interaction - they foster peer-to-peer connections between users
- openness - anybody can read anything, anybody can write anything
- diversity - a multitude of technical, social and political systems is supported
These are just my rough characterizations; I would not say that this is the definitive list, but this is an approximation of what the list would look like. I argue for this list in Connective Knowledge.

The answer to the question posed in this essay, therefore, boils down, in my view, to this: we build and select and use software that instantiates the four principles, and where possible, we foster and encourage the use of such software in our institutions.

It will be very difficult for the hegemony to resist the use of such software, for the principles it embodies are fundamentally democratic principles, which means that efforts to oppose such software will appear more and more authoritarian (as does, for example, the recent campaign against social software).