Will the Internet Remain the Land of the Free?
Just as the invention of the telephone made large steps in erasing class distinction as explained in Carolyn Marvin’s Community and Class Order, the internet has gone even further in allowing almost anyone nearly unlimited access to information with “how to” videos of every kind to college lectures across disciplines.
Roy Rosenzweig’s essay on the history of the internet suggests that the conflict between high budget government and military application of the internet and the disembodied “netizens” has created the internet as we know it today. Modern examples of this conflict include the rise and fall of net neutrality and the creation of the politically influenced, music genre “vaporwave”.
Net neutrality, requiring that internet service providers offer equal access to all web content, was repealed on December 14, 2017 after being enacted only two years before. While some leading individuals such as Ajit Pai argue that these regulations impeded innovation by stunting investment, others see a possible blow to freedom of speech and are concerned with the power this provides internet providers over the accessibility of content. While this change will likely spark investment with internet providers new financial incentives, the responsibility of maintaining freedom of information on the internet falls increasingly on the users themselves.
Now how does an underground music subgenre relate to the openness of the internet? First we need some information about what it is and who made it. Vaporwave is a sub-genre originally created as a joke by little known electronic musicians that quickly grew into an online community on Reddit and similar sites. While vaporwave maintained its “joke” or “trolling” mentality/style, a core group of creators evolved the genre into a small counter culture focusing on 80’s capitalist culture. In-line with anti-capitalism and freedom of information, the genre is almost entirely created by using previous artists work and pushing copyright laws.
The sub-genre sparked tremendous participation from thousands of amateur musicians creating similar works and sharing them without financial incentive on platforms such as Reddit, SoundCloud, and YouTube. These amateur musicians working in their spare time for fun are surely a strange evolution of Rosenzweig’s “netizens” but are nonetheless evidence of growing communities shaping the internet with freedom of information in mind.
The future of the internet will be largely shaped by government policy on net neutrality and antitrust cases against primary internet providers, but the influence of “netizens” cannot be understated. The massive government funding of the original framework of the internet merely resulted in a mostly empty system of information, it wasn’t until “netizens” took it upon themselves to create and expand the plethora of content we call the internet today. The major question remains, will these internet citizens be able to direct the internet towards open exchange of information against growing control of internet providers?