When I was setting up the Disintermedia project, I saw an urgent need for a researching and campaigning group for digital liberties - the Aotearoa equivalent of the USA’s Electronic Frontiers Foundation. A group focussed on defending fundamental  freedoms of speech, expression, and association in the online environment. A group that would support software development and standards organisations who aim to maintain a free and uncapturable internet. A group that would document and oppose attempts by governments and other powerful bodies to police the internet, and spy on users.

Consequently, most of the work I’ve done on Disintermedia so far has been curved by the conceptual gravity of this perceived need, but my vision for the project has always been broader than this. The name Disintermedia refers to the p2p (peer-to-peer or end-to-end) networking principle, where no authority can force itself to be the intermediary between any two peers in a network, and mediate their relationship to its own advantage. Communication between networks of equal peers is the key principle behind the internet. P2p collaboration in the free code software movements created much of the software that runs the net, and runs services over it today. The p2p principle is at work behind almost everything we do online, from email, to browsing the web, to social networking, to file-sharing.

However, the p2p principle is older than computers. The model of the federation, a network of peers with no central authority, has been implemented in pre-digital communications systems like the postal service, and transport systems like cross-continental trains. It can be found at work today in many other kinds of social collaboration, as illustrated by the examples in the documentary ‘Us Now‘. These and many other examples provide strong evidence that federations of equals, working within mutually agreed protocols, can create and maintain any systems human communities need. I believe the p2p principle is relevant to every field of human activity, and researching and supporting the emergence of a global, p2p human society is the wider project of Disintermedia.

Since my recent discovery of the Tech Liberty, I’ve been thinking about defending digital liberties by working with their collective. So, what’s next for Disintermedia? Perhaps documenting the ways the p2p model is being investigated and applied offline, and commonalities between superficially different communities social movements whose structure is p2p, and who find themselves in conflict with centralised bodies like companies (business corporations) and governments (territorial corporations).

Filed July 30th, 2010 under Uncategorized
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