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revolution round-up: week four

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Dan Biddle Dan Biddle | 11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

This week Aleks Krotoski launched into the themes and current theses that make up programme two of the BBC Two series, nation states and the web.

'Can eBay be considered a nation state?' Asked Aleks Krotoski at the top of the week.

'No. It can't,' came the reply.

Well, the replies were more detailed and considered than that! @PeteHindle made clear his views on the unlikelihood of a business rooted in capitalism achieving nationhood, and offered an alternative web community to consider in its place: Freecycle. @Jayfurneaux concurred that Freecycle better fitted our theories, though with caveats regarding the community's moderators.

@cyberissues pointed out that the aspects of eBay that represented indications of an emerging independent nation were perhaps assuming an autonomy in the communications of Skype and financial infrastructure of PayPal that don't exist; both companies are registered in Luxembourg and bound to its legal framework, as well as many of the laws of the countries in which they operate.

Elsewhere, @SheffTim engaged with Bill Thompson's assertion that the web is making the world a better place. A detailed comment well worth reading, there was a tinge of resignation which echoed Aleks' earlier ideas that the web is, in fact, too good for us to make the best of. @shefftim observes: 'Neither literacy nor any technological innovation, no matter how great, changes human nature.'

The director of programme two, Frank Hanly, has just started on the production this week, so your input from the comments will be considered by him in the drafting of scripts as soon as he's bedded in. Expect to hear from him soon.

Programme one (power and the web)

Some superb responses have come in via comments to last week's requests for information on Wikipedia - deletionists and the hierarchies of the crowdsourced online encyclopedia. @seaephae offered an incredible (dare I say Wikipedic...?) list of links in response to director Philip Smith's request for further info. Philip's been buried in drafting the first script of the programme, but has emerged and is busy visiting these links and trying to contact a UK deletionist via the Wikipedia links provided.

@WereSpielChequers also offered a substantive list of considerations, qualifying that there was less of a binary <i>deletionist / inclusionist</i> battle within Wikipedia's editors, rather there was a much greater degree of debated nuance. It would seem that, if there are indeed elites within Wikipedia, they are not entirely undemocratic as can be seen through the discussion pages supplied by @WereSpielChequers.

Programme three (economics and privacy)

Conversations with @SheffTim led to a discussion of pornography and the web. Issues relevant to programme 3 of economics and captcha cheating by spambots arose. Though @SheffTim's points ran more into the themes of programme four (of which more later).

@EnglishFolkFan highlighted another facet of the web as a tool to improve the world, highlighting World Community Grid - an application of peer-to-peer technology that betters the world. This links not only with programme two as an issue of the crumbling boundaries of nation states as any number of computers' processor power from any number of (online) countries can be linked, united in a larger cause. It appears the same technology loathed by some industries may be harnessed for noble causes also (as seen in BBC's own Climate Change Experiment).

Programme four (how the web is changing us)

The aforementioned discussion of porn included consideration of online pornography's effects on the web users. @SheffTim described both the problems of online porn providing a plethora of links to stories well worth considering in the course of the programme's production.

I said in a reply that I thought porn wasn't being tackled as a subject for the series; this wasn't quite correct. Programme two will include the issue of pornography online, presumably in the context of censorship, nations blocking porn sites, challenging online content etc. I will have to defer to Frank Hanley for a clearer idea of this.

This said, I think Molly Milton, the director of programme four, will be interested to read that info shared in those comments and may well consider the role that debate may need to play in the shaping of that final programme.


Once again, we've had a week of outstanding contributions from you - the web. Please do keep the thoughts, the challenges, the debates coming. 

Coming next: eBay responds to Aleks' theories of its nationhood. And just how much of the World gets to make up the World Wide Web?


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