FRIDAY NIGHT TALK, 7.30pm THE TRAGEDY OF THE DIGITAL COMMONS: ON THE EXPROPRIATION AND COMMODIFICATION OF SOCIAL CYBERSPACES 🗓

June 25, 2021

Speaker: Tristan Miller
Public discourse today is dominated by commercial social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as a plethora of smaller “walled gardens” that individual media companies provide for the discussion of their published content. These forums are tightly controlled, and their participants are shamelessly exploited for commercial gain. But the Internet was not always like this: in the 1980s and 1990s most online conversations took place on Usenet, a worldwide discussion network that was open to everyone and had no centralized structure, ownership, or control. Far from being an anarchic Wild West, Usenet succeeded in coalescing its millions of diverse users into a functional, thriving online society, united through shared culture, conventions, and values. In this talk, I discuss the developments between then and now that led to the free-access “public good” of Usenet being supplanted by privately owned discussion venues, the consequences of this transformation, and what these lessons can teach societies of the future, both online and in the
real world.

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