Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Digital Disconnect - Robert W. McChesney

The subtitle for McChesney's book is How capitalism is turning the Internet against democracy, so if we did want to look for "villains," this book might be something you'd consider. I looked at his chapter 4, one of two historical chapters, focused on how “capitalism has conquered the internet” (and what this means for the democratic potential and openness of the Internet).  Dinosaurs (in the chapter subtitle) refers to the giant telecommunications and media corporations for which the Internet was thought to be an existential threat. His focus is more on “private forces of coercion” (Lessig) and corporate-dominated government policy than on issues of “code,” design, or infrastructure, but he still focuses on how these “forces” (market and legal/policy influence) constrain access to information and genuine democratic participation. McChesney’s work would be a fine complement to Martin Campbell-Kelley’s chapter on the history of the Internet. Digital Disconnect provides a "macro" perspective and is intended for a wider audience, but he treats issues of Net neutrality, copyright enforcement, digital rights management, publishing and e-books, and the digital divide, all of which are relevant to democratic access to information and thus to librarians. (See also 4/5/2013 this Democracy Now! interview with McChesney. Note on "code" and black boxes: when posting I couldn't connect  to DemNow! to embed the full interview, and the blog's YouTube search box couldn't seem to locate its own DemNow! segment. Still you should be able to link to that same video above.)

Robert W. McChesney, “The Internet and capitalism I: Where the dinosaurs roam?” in Digital Disconnect: How capitalism is turning the Internet against democracy (New York: The New Press, 2013), pp. 96- 129. 

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