Is the Internet Utopia?
An Exploration of Certain Problems, A Global Governance Proposal and a Conclusion About the Potential of Waveworld

Is the Internet Utopia?
Is this even the right question?
Superstudio, a Florence, Italy, collective of the 1960's Radical Architectural Movement, envisioned a communications grid over terrestrial territory leading to a perfect society of complete mobility and instant access, which resembles the lofty ideals some people have for the internet, today. (For an introduction to Superstudio, see "Superstudio: Pioneers".) However, just like any other human innovation, the internet is not a perfect technological nor societal system, that must be obvious. No system, no matter how new or amazing is perfect. So lets ask ourselves another more realistic question and see where that can lead us.

A Better Question: Is the Internet Utopian?
But first lets update things a bit. The internet has been around now for forty years starting with the US Defence Department's ARPANET. Its grown and changed alot since then. With its growth, its obtained a huge social dimension easily evinced by such popular social and business networking phenomena as webmail, facebook, linkedin and even twitter. So its not only so much just an arcane electrical net of computers, wires, routers, servers, fireoptics, radio waves, satellites, etc any more. Because of its associated social participation and acceptance, its become more of a world than just a net. And physically speaking, this world's information is fundamentally constructed upon always the same thing: electromagnetic waves.
So if the internet is kind of an old fashioned name for this new world, lets stop calling it that. Lets recognize that it involves a social world communicated by bits of electromagnetic waves. Lets call those bits, blits and hereby for fun, for important research purposes and for the scope of this paper rename the internet. Lets see, world and wave, wave plus world, what name would be the best?
Lets call it waveworld!

Is Waveworld Utopian?
Of course its not Utopia! If waveworld is to be a new moniker for the present and future internet, it obviously isn't Utopia for the same reason that the internet wasn't. It isn't perfect.
So if the internet isn't Utopia and waveworld isn't Utopia and this paper's name is “Is the Internet Utopia?” isn't this paper over?
Well, we could stop and say its over with such a simple argument as has been already advanced. But since there's some space left over, lets use it to consider what's Utopian about waveworld. In other words lets look at some of its problems, some of its benefits, propose a global legal approach to it and most of all, decide if waveworld really does have a bright future ahead of it.
But first, this little “heads up.” In the next section, some more new terms will be invented as they are needed to best expedite an argument in favour of internet governance. All terms introduced in this paper, as well as a few other useful ones that the reader may not be aware of, are first in boldface and are also included in a glossary at the end.


From Borders to Waveworld Fractal Zones
Much has been made, especially in the book Who Controls the Internet? about the current internet (waveworld) as being bordered. Top commercial and non-commercial websites, sites being waveworld command centres or wccs for users, regionalize their content presentation based on international borders and many times self-reportings of localities or languages from interacting users. Governments, such as oft mentioned China's, may restrict, censor or regulate content as well. (See "China blocks" for a recent example of this.) This has led to the interpretation of waveworld as becoming bordered. But since wccs or national control apparatus can't always be relied on to function with complete reliability or perfection, the borders have lots of people who are jumpers that find ways to get around intended controls. These people are not unlike illegal aliens into countries but far less likely to be stopped and even prosecuted because of the long recognized opportunities for anonyminity on waveworld.
These jumpers make for some fuzzy boundaries, which are different than borders and more random in effect. So waveworld cannot truly be said to be bordered but zoned, based not so much on national governmental edicts as marketing and targeting efforts by waveworld command centres or wccs, as well as selectivity of users themselves. And these zones generally don't form as distinct shapes as national states do because they are not solely determined or influenced by the nation states they may share important correspondences with.
These zones may share similar geometries. Each such zone has a characteristic shape reflecting geographic, political and cultural boundaries but since the influence of differing languages and nations is still quite strong, we can intelligently speculate that such shapes are significantly closed ones. They're definitely leaky but not that leaky. One could think of these zones probably more specifically as loci, instead. But lets stick with zones just for simplicity and communicability's sake. We can then ask ourselves, what are the basic global relationships of these zones? What do they have in common?
Lets simplify the geometries and think of all of them as closed geometric figures of varying sides, both in length and shape. We can then take an additional step forward, once we recognize that the area of these zones varies, like countries, principalities and language and culturally bound regions do. This makes the zones self-similar, different in size with an already recognized random character to this difference. That, albeit very, very generally and obliquely, qualifies these zones as fractal, lets see fractal plus zones, so lets simply call them frones.

Why are Frones Are So Important?
Frones because of their localized but leaky nature reflect cultural and geographic boundaries. So frones may have a similar effect to the old nation states and their social discontinuance at borders. Frones have biases toward the social, functional and geographical characteristics that influences their character the most. You can have wccs servicing particular frones or sets of frones, like yahoo serving France through a France homepage, or you tube servicing a search query through tag or title based informations, or froogle.com serving practically countless categories of shopped items. Frones are so important, because they bear a similar quality to the old nation states or other politically or culturally bounded regions but frones reflect countless interests and places, as nations on a map do not. Those are strictly geographical.
You could never put waveworld's frones on a single 2d map. They are simply too limitless and many are generated not by the builders of the wccs themselves but by the users of today's advanced super search engines or susies. People don't just search waveworld any more, they also query susies. When they query susies with a distinctive entry, especially one that has a social dimension, such as "What is known about Portugal?", immediately the susie delivers a vast set of results that represents a frone and has leaky borders, albeit such a frone is temporary in itself. It only is extant as long as it is in use by at least one user. This kind of activity creates such unpredictable dynamism that frones cannot be conceivably controlled by any single government or other bureaucracy. In short, there's countless frones to hypothetically consider and because of susies and other wccs that have susies within them, waveworld defies traditional national governance and that kind of scares people. Reasonable people don't want disorder and anarchy, they want proper and effective government. How do you do that in waveworld when you've got all of these impossibly seeming frones to deal with?

A Little Technological Utopianism: What Waveworld Does Best
Let’s revisit the governance question in a while and ask ourselves a few more things first. What does waveworld really do best for us? We all know roughly the answer to that from a technical standpoint. Waveworld allows us to exchange data inexpensively on a global basis, be it textual, graphical, audio, sensational or video or some or all of the above. So waveworld is the potential global communications facility for all people, if we leave aside important problems like the digital divide for the moment, in the hope that these will be gradually overcome in favour of total participation.
But what does waveworld do for us socially? It connects and binds us in ways unknown in the past due to its sheer flexibility, versatility, speed and identity options. It involves most prior forms of media within itself. With this kind of potential we can easily come to the conclusion that waveworld has fantastic potential to improve global society, because the better the communications technology, the more conducive to socially positive activity this technology should be.
Of course waveworld is used for nefarious purposes as well. It is used to commit fraud and steal identities, it can be used by powerful corporate or political interests to propagandize, it can be used to help facilitate sex crimes, it can be used to bully both children and adults, etc. This should remind us something about communications technology that has always been true. Like any other technology, no matter how new or amazing, waveworld can’t guarantee better people. Virtually any technology can be abused.

Waveworld and Global Culture
Much has been made in the last generation about the advancement of globalization. In areas such as trade, nations are looking to cooperate and especially do business with each other extensively and this is evinced quite readily by such global institutions as the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, Red Cross/Red Crescent, etc. These institutions aren't necessarily ubiquitous, democratic or without their notably regional biases but they are global nonetheless.
Teenagers are globalists, at least in the following important sense. The emerging to adulthood generation has already been recognized by marketers as being markedly similar in consumption and lifestyle habits, worldwide. A teenager may be drinking Coca Cola in Winnipeg or Beijing as you read this. This is not unusual at all these days and marketers use information like this to promote the success of goods to the greatest global extent that they can. Teenagers also have an affinity globally, at least where they can afford it, for the latest consumer technologies, like ipods, dvds, smartphones, etc. This also includes waveworld.
So teenage participation in waveworld accentuates the fact that global culture is being fed by waveworld participation. Think of facebook for instance. This author doesn't socialize much, but even he has a contact from Fiji that he met through facebook. He also has followed some celebrities through twitter. Think of the teenagers and other people you know that have friends from around the world because of the great facility that waveworld allows them. But to prevent disorder and anarchy, global culture just like any other culture needs to be governed. By corollary then, as waveworld feeds global culture, waveworld needs to be governed.

Advancing the Promise of Waveworld: The Need for Waveworld Governance
The aforementioned Who Controls the Internet? makes the case very clearly that if you don't have internet governance, you end up with big conflicts and problems. But how can you govern a global phenomenon like waveworld properly and effectively when there are so many nations in the world that use it, all with differing customs, languages, constitutions, laws and regulations, along with the apparent unmanageable character of those ubiquitous frones?
We can look to history for an answer with great potential to solve this problem. What apparently unmanageable vast phenomena have nations always had to share and how did they go about doing it? Well, the answer is obvious to that: the oceans! Nations have always had to share the oceans and they’ve learned to use international agreements to effectively do that.

Waveworld and Oceanic Law
Maritime law, admiralty law, custom of the sea and the Law of the Sea have gradually evolved and been used over the centuries in order to share the world's oceans with the least amount of conflict, especially armed conflict. These international customs, laws and agreements don't guarantee that nations won't fight with each other over oceanic interests, but it does show their overall willingness to cooperate and recognize that the oceans don't belong to any one nation in particular. They belong to all nations. There is even a legal concept meaning this, which is central to oceanic law. It is called mare liberum.
We don't need fancy Latin legal terms to describe a similar concept for waveworld. We just need all or at least most of its participating nations to recognize the ideal that waveworld belongs to no one nation or even person but to everyone. Lets call that egalitarian concept for sharing egalishare. If nations can agree that the oceans are to be shared then there is great hope that they can convince one another that waveworld should be shared, too. Then they can start making global egalishare agreements that should help make everyone happy and waveworld alot more predictable legally and concomitantly easier to operate in, as well. Of course, no legal system can be perfect, but with an eye toward oceanic law egalisharing should hopefully have just as great a chance at success.

Preserving Utopian Dreams: The Unlikelihood of Persistent Hegemony in Waveworld
Even with egalishare based on international agreements, we can ask ourselves what about the influence of powerful individual institutions like corporations dominating people over the internet? Much has been made about corporate media mergers both prewaveworld and waveworld. So it is an understandable fear that corporations and powerful entities like them will unfairly dominate people through waveworld.
An effective argument against this can be made by borrowing a couple of common marketing terms and applying them to waveworld content, which we can consider as products for the sake of this argument. These terms are push and pull. When a marketer tries to promote a type of cereal inside a supermarket aisle, they might display coupons for immediate use by the consumer, in order to promote or push the purchase of the product. When a marketer develops a reputation for the cereal through quality, nutrition and taste, they are trying to entice or pull consumers into purchasing the product. Waveworld does contain a great amount of advertising, but it contains so much mainline content that much of the advertising is easily ignored or selected as desired by the consumer. Also, much of the advertising is custom-delivered using stored customer information to hopefully satisfy the demand of users for wanted information, only.
So since unwanted content is so easily avoided and ignored on waveworld, push is at a real disadvantage and pull should reign supreme. This indicates possibly better content delivery for ideas and products than we're used to, unlike say on television, where canned commercials are pushed at consumers and require greater effort to ignore. So as long as systems like susies, which compete heavily already, are operating fairly, content should also compete fairly and the most well-liked content should win on waveworld. Its therefore difficult to imagine a permanently domineering hegemony on waveworld with such a plausibly neutral environment. This argument does rely on things like continued net neutrality, though. (See "The Struggle" for some background on net neutrality.) Furthermore, with all our hopes for waveworld, its best not to forget that we really don't have a crystal ball as to how it is all going to turn out. To a certain extent at least, we have to wait and see.

Concluding the Answer: Is Waveworld Utopian?
Recalling that waveworld can't be perfect, indeed we can say in many ways how waveworld at least seems Utopian. Few could have foretold how useful, accessible, versatile and ubiquitous waveworld could be. People are simply amazed by the useful capabilities afforded by waveworld and have flocked to it, as a result.
But let’s not forget that technology provides for no guarantee of better people. We can't say for sure that waveworld will ever be properly and fairly governed, although we definitely have reason for hope. We also can't say absolutely for sure whether evil interests will be able to endlessly dominate waveworld, although once again, there is great hope that such an outcome is not realistic. Also, we can't say for sure whether everyone will be eventually able to participate in waveworld, although programs to encourage universal use like One Laptop Per Child show a great deal of promise in this area.
What we can say is this. The ultimate level of success or "Utopianness" of waveworld, just like any other communications innovation, depends on all of its people. Technology means nothing without people. With the right foresight, goodwill and global cooperation, waveworld stands an excellent chance of becoming even more useful and incredible. However, without serious attention paid to its growing pains, such as lack of global governance using egalishare, waveworld could continually be used to inflict serious harm. Furthermore, it definitely will never be perfect.
So to make waveworld as Utopian as possible, its up to all of its people. If people recognize their responsibility to use such a new technology only in ways that deliberately harm no one and are governed properly to this end, waveworld will continue to get better. If people and governments abrogate this responsibility, then waveworld could become anti-Utopian just as certainly. In the end, its just like anything else with global potential for good. Its success or failure depends on all people.


Glossary
Existing terms:
digital divide: The social divide created by people who have internet versus those who do not. Thought by many to unfairly limit universal internet participation.
fractals: For the purposes of this paper, shapes or loci that are repetitious and even slightly self-similar, along with at least a somewhat random character.
mare liberum: A formal conceptual legal term indicating that the world's open oceans belong to no single state-like entity, such as countries, states, provinces, principalities, etc but are to be legally shared by all.
net neutrality: The ideal that all information that is legal and communicated over the internet should be transmitted and received on a fair and equal basis without prejudice as to the nature of data involved. For instance, an internet provider that delivers information originating from other providers on an equal basis to its own is practicing net neutrality.
oceanic law: Laws, customs, conventions and other accepted legal practices of proper conduct and cooperation with respect to the world's oceans.
push and pull: Push are the techniques that a marketer uses to push consumption of a product or idea, for instance the idea that smoking is deadly is pushed by ubiquitous warnings prominent on cigarette packaging. Pull are the techniques a marketer uses to pull consumption of a product or idea, such as developing a solid reputation for quality and reliability in a particular automobile model.


New terms:
blits: Binary bits on waveworld. Waveworld information is binary encoded just like any other digital medium, but to emphasize the holistic character of the information once it becomes globally available, including its social dimension, the term blits is proposed, instead.
egalishare: A proposed legal concept for waveworld that recognizes that no single entity or person owns or controls waveworld, as it is the shared expanse of all of its users, including potential ones.
frones: Fractal zone phenomena on waveworld, which are likely temporary. An example of this is the set of search results from a particular susie query.
jumpers: Waveworld users that circumvent, defeat or otherwise avoid wcc or governmental controls that have a mandatory intention behind them.
susie: A SUper Search engInE of waveworld, either stand-alone or as part of another wcc that permit advanced searching commands such as queries in the form of questions.
waveworld: A new name for the contemporary and future internet that emphasizes the ultimate underpinning of its information as electromagnetic waves, along with its social world quality that has come into existence.
waveworld command centres (wccs): Websites and other waveworld equipment which enable users to significantly command their waveworld experience.


Works Cited
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Goldsmith, Jack and Wu, Tim. Who Controls the Internet? New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Handler, Carole E. "The struggle over net neutrality" Internet Law & Strategy. 1 April, 2009. 4 June 2009
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Ringen, Jonathan. “Superstudio: Pioneers of Conceptual Architecture” MetropolisMag. 6 January 2004. 4 June 2009 <http://www.metropolismag.com/story/20040106/superstudio-pioneers-of-conceptual-architecture>.


References
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Centre for Oceans Law and Policy. 01 June 2009. University of Virginia - School of Law. 4 June 2009 [http://www.virginia.edu/colp/index.html].
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