Conflict on virtual networks

Alex Grech

It’s not often that you get to spend two days with ecumenical Marxists, technologists, Maths teachers, activists and researchers.

Last week, I presented a paper at the Inaugural Interdisciplinary Conference of the Virtual Communication, Collaboration and Conflict (VIRT3C) Research Group at the University of Hull.  The conference theme was  ‘Conflict in adoption of Collaborative Networks’, and there’s a good round up of what went on at Simon Lindgren’s blog here and here – his excellent presentation is also online.

These are my ‘take home’ sound bites:

Subculture is at the nexus of pirate culture and participatory culture.

The network public is an example of media audience characterised by amateurs, interested in remixing the web. Sometimes also reminiscent of Rheingold’s Smart mobs.  It has great participatory potential, and realised in a friction-less manner.

30% of Sweden’s online revenues disappeared when Pirate Bay was pulled.

1% of the blogosphere writes 25% of the posts.

Blogging is no longer about news or citizen journalism.  It’s the voice of a person.  Blogging gets people to reflect on who they are.

Many businesses claim to want to become social movements for doing good. Most aren’t.

The dividing line between entrepreneurs, activists and criminals seems to be increasingly blurred, in the online world.

Even dissent is bankable. Protest movements help attract huge internet traffic.  They understand that in places like China, despite the reluctance to take on the system.

Concerns about the civil society, citizenship, activism and censorship are not just limited to the obvious states engaged in information warfare on the virtual society.  The global Internet sphere is collapsing fast – under surveillance, and filtered in many countries.

Cabals and forking have their place in the open source movement.  Forking is what happens when a software project splits and development goes down different paths.  The discourse of forking is full of dissentors, allies and different perceptions of  realities.  FLOSS is not dental care, but  ‘Free/Libre and Open Source Software.’

Conflict in free software is a normal component of a governance model which determines: the types of conflicts that emerge in a social entity; who is engaged in the conflict; how conflicts develop; and how the social entity deals with conflicts.

The debate about free culture and free content rumbles on, especially now that the Times intends to start charging for its online content.  The Creative Commons are no solution for creatives. Content providers continue to be bundled in the same bag as software developers when it comes to ‘giving their work away for free.’  Tech people can work on open source solutions in their spare time, because they can always find a paid  job.  Creatives cannot.  In the meantime, people are busy drawing up charters and trying to determine alternative approaches.

There is a new lexicon in the blogosphere which reflects the frequent tensions between bloggers and commentators. Made-up words like ‘karma whore’, ‘link slutty’, ‘flaming wars’ and more…

Sharing needs to be de-constructed into different qualities and dimensions, if we are to understand how it works online.  Specifically a) what is being shared b) who we are sharing with and who is sharing with us and c) why sharing happens.  These different qualities of sharing have different social and economic implications.

Technological change over time may have more in common with the ideas of evolution than we may be aware of.

Work is never distributed equally in open source software projects. Most people quit within the first 12 months of involvement, and only a tiny fraction make it beyond three years’ participation.

Universities are often accused of teaching the next generation of computer criminals and internet terrorists.

Societies have a natural hierarchy – the Internet doesn’t. This overall lack of hierarchical control means that policing and conflict resolution is difficult, as natural arbitrators are missing.

Online, you speak in haste – and repent at leisure.

My paper introduced my research area.  My  slides are here.

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2 Responses to Conflict on virtual networks

  1. Tomas says:

    Hi Alex – that’s a great summary! Here’s a link to the notes/slides from my presentation at the event. Talk Notes: Technology and Evolution http://blog.catbot.org/content/talk-notes-technology-and-evolution

    Thanks

  2. Pingback: P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » VIRT3C: Conflict on Virtual Networks

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