I just stumbled upon this blog post, written by Mitch Kapor. Although a bit dated, Kapor (apparently the inventor of Lotus 1-2-3 and Chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation), provides one of the best summaries I’ve ever read regarding the way in which the architecture of the Internet works to change traditional power structures. Needless to say, this phenomenon is having a profound effect on our American political system. Here’s an excerpt:
The decentralized architecture of the Internet minimizes the role of central authorities and maximizes the ability of any participant to offer or receive any information or service and to develop new capabilities and services. What keeps the Internet from descending into chaos and anarchy is not centralized authority, but that its activities, while decentralized, are highly coordinated through adherence to collectively developed open standards……As long as the fundamental architecture of the internet remains open in the deepest sense, it offers the promise and challenges of of a system that is free to evolve through innovation. When anyone attempts to or succeeds in controling key interfaces of the internet, whether by governmental restriction of access to certain web sites, telecommuinicaiton carriers threats to favor certain traffic over others, or email providers charging for mail in discrininatory ways, that promise is deeply threatened..I used the term Jeffersonian in an approving way to describe the decentralized yet coordinated architecture of the internet in the cover story of the Wired managine (issue #3) in 1993. In hindsight, it was premature (if not naïve) to espouse that the Internet would by itself herald a revival of Jeffersonian democracy. Yet, the basic insight that freedom, participation, creativity, and openness are better fostered by a decentralized but coordinated architecture, than by a centralized, hierarchical one, remains correct, and is there to be taken advantage of.
Politics is Architecture
You can read the rest of his post here.
Congratulations, Mitch, I’m adding you to my blogroll.