Internet Centrism

This morning I am heading down to the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy to talk about Peer Progress and Regulation 2.0.  The pitch goes like this:

“Peer Networks” are bringing new organizational and economic dynamics to every sector — unlocking tremendous opportunity and potential. At the same time, they threaten incumbents in the private and public sectors, and present new challenges for regulators working to protect the public interest. Please join us to discuss the dynamics of peer networks, the opportunities they present to our economies and societies, and the political and policy challenges facing their advancement.

So it’s fitting that my morning reading kicked off with this critique of the Peer Progressive worldview (as embodied in Steven Johnson’s recent book, Future Perfect) by Evgeny Morozov.  If you’ve read Future Perfect, or other books about how peer networks & open collaboration are changing our society & economy by folks such as Benkler, ZIttrain, Weinberger, Shirky, etc., go read the article as well as Steven’s rebuttal now.

The gist of Morozov’s argument is that Future Perfect is Internet-Centrism / Cyber-utopianism in a box – conveniently omitting many tough questions and cherry-picking historical examples to fit a pre-determined viewpoint.  Johnson’s response is that Morozov’s critique misses many of the nuances of his argument.

I don’t have time to write a proper response right now – but my starting point for thinking about this is pretty obvious.  I’m describe myself as a “student of cities and the internet”, this blog is named after one of the ideas in Steven’s previous book, I’ve written about Steven and his ideas many times before, he and I are working on a project together right now, and my interest in all of this stems from reading Jane Jacobs in college.  So I am hardly an impartial observer.

That said, I welcome Morozov’s critique, and find it tremendously useful in shaping and sharpening my thinking.