Policy Bloggers Network – Rousseau and the missing perspectives in Digital Policy discussions

Over the years, I have been slowly evolving the Policy Bloggers Network site. From the outset, the goal was to create a community to extend the policy discussions beyond the traditional audience (Policy makers, academia and industry). The community has grown over the last few months and we are now at the next stage of its evolution.

The french philosopher Rousseau said: Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains. Many of us who follow the ethos of the Internet – appreciate the liberal mindset and the freedom the Internet has brought to society. We understand that the Internet is not ‘free’. Today, with the anti SOPA campaign and the rise of organizations like the Internet Defense League – Internet activism has reached mainstream.

However, that presents a unique problem.

For all its freedom, we are still presented with one sided views of the Internet i.e. as the Internet coalesces around certain perspectives/ freedoms – other freedoms/ perspectives are ignored.

Hence the reference to Rousseau i.e. to be free but still to be in chains.

Ironically, that’s not conducive to Internet freedom ..

Here are some examples of interesting thinking I am following:

  • We are always concerned about privacy. But is the EU privacy/ data protection approach curtailing growth for the EU – especially at a time when growth is badly needed
  • Is internet a place where certain rights (such as intellectual property, but not only) just cannot be enforced?
  • In a recent book, Nick Harkaway proposes that IP and Privacy are related because they both relate to ‘ring fence certain information’  - In sum: both Privacy and IP are assertions of a moral right over information created by an individual’s encounter with the world. Both exist at the boundary of a person and the external, communal experience. Both are essentially in the hands of others. Both require, in order to survive, a collective acceptance of their right to be recognised.
  • Martin Geddes asks if we should have a GNU (General Internetworking License) modeled on General Public License (GPL) i.e. a sophisticated legal and social agreement to encode freedoms beyond the dreams of those who fathered and founded the Internet?


So, if we are to bring out diverse/ missing perspectives, the aim of the Policy bloggers network is:

a)      To highlight the ‘missing perspectives’ and the people who shape these ideas i.e. bring together uncommon voices

b)      These views may not be necessarily my personal views but they add value to the intellectual discussion about the future of the Internet.

c)      On much of the Internet, the conversation is not in the ‘long form’ i.e. we encourage longer, more intellectual discussions on the Policy bloggers network site and community

d)     Database journalism will be an important part of the site i.e. a reliance on data to support arguments

e)      Traditional journal publishing is broken. It is closed, expensive, slow and irrelevant. We aim to provide a new form of publication/ journal that focusses on the missing perspectives in the evolution of the Internet

Ideas are powerful.

Sometimes they take a bit longer to play out – but eventually they do. Rousseau’s ideas led to the French revolution and to the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought

That is an inspiration for our ethos.

Comments welcome as usual


Image source: wikipedia