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Almost 40% of the world's population is now online. The Internet has become one of the most revolutionary technologies of the post-war era. Over the past 20-30 years, it has enabled wider access to information than any other medium that has preceded it, connected individuals and communities across the globe and enabled transformations of organisations from business and culture to health and education. This has led to unprecedented access to human knowledge, the formation of 'communities of interest' without regard to geography, a platform for anyone to have a voice and for entirely new forms of social organisation. Much of this has been possible because of the extraordinary principles of openness that the Internet was founded under, and which continue to permeate it at every layer.
These transformations have not come without a price. A world that moves from 'information scarcity' to 'information abundance' has new problems of information overload. A digital divide opens up between the 'information rich' and the 'information poor' of all countries. A platform for anyone to speak can also become a platform for hate speech and other sinister aspects of the human condition. A platform for anyone to speak has also profound implications for the once solid borders of the nation state. New forms of cultural production have eroded the certainties of older, more industrialised means of cultural production. And while for some, the Internet is the world's biggest copying machine, for others it is the world's biggest surveillance opportunity. All of these implications pose significant challenges to the openness that has enabled all of the advantages of a decentralised and unowned digital communications system to take place.
This openness is now under grave threat. It is under threat from malicious individuals, who use the Internet for harassment of others or for computing malpractices. It is under treat from corporations, whose longstanding business models have crumbled around them in the shift to a networked information economy. It is under threat from legislators who don't understand the technology and who are in thrall to lobbyists. It is under threat from governments, who have been undermined by losing their monopolies on social power or who have turned to dragnetting all communications of private citizens. These threats may ultimately lead to the first great experiment in pan-human freedom to soon be over.
But it is not yet over, and nor need it be. There are actions that are being taken or that can be taken by individuals, by groups, organisations or coalitions, by states or international bodies, to keep the Internet open. This project seeks to collect and publish as many of these methods as possible, with the aims of highlighting what can be done and of inspiring others to do.
Based on the model of Gene Sharp's '198 Methods of Nonviolent Action' to achieve social change, this is a project of both preservation and reformation, that seeks to find at least 198 ways to keep the Internet open. This catalogue will be subdivided into distinct layers of the Internet - physical, logical, content and social - under which each issue will be grouped. It will draw many of the ideas from a corpus of works by Internet scholars and from other relevant sources. These methods range from the simple and easy to deploy - use open source technologies, join or start a campaign on a digital rights issue, learn HTML - to the vast and complex - open up the wireless spectrum, reform copyright law, foster multi-stakeholder participation in the space of Internet governance.
But it can also come from you.
There are three ways that you can contribute your ideas to this project.
Tweeted ideas will show up in the left sidebar. Remember if not contributing to an actual layer page, make sure to include which layer you are adding an idea to.
You can find out more about formatting styles for the wiki here.
This project forms part of the research for a dissertation for my Masters degree in Digital Media, at Sussex University.