Internet & Society: Technologies and Politics of Control
From the moment Internet file-sharing became a reality, exploding into millions of homes and dorms, something changed. Internet file sharing brought with it the opportunity to access for free what had previously cost money. Beyond that, file sharing created a social norm that music and digital media ought to be free. How did this happen? How did file sharers warp reality and forever create this notion that digital media, notably music doesn’t require the money it always had before?
Through this paper, I will attempt to prove that the social norms of the Internet public were corrupted by code, by deceptive P2P programs that mask reality for the sake of prosperity. It is this warped social norm that plagues the future of digital media tomorrow. By examining the programs that have forced this revolution (Napster, LimeWire, KaZaA) much can be learned and understood about where and how society failed to recognize its Internet world is in fact an extension of the physical world, and the same rules of civility and morality ought to apply. It is my contention that the P2P networks created an atmosphere built around harmonious sharing—using the ideas of strength in numbers and anonymity to create richly stocked P2P networks. Finally, after careful analysis and discussion of the facts, I will offer suggestions on moving forward and hopefully solving the chaos and problems faced by the present system (or lack thereof).
In “Code and other Laws of Cyberspace”, Lawrence Lessig outlines the four modalities of regulation—law, markets, norms, and architecture. Law has the ability to regulate behavior through penalty and markets create incentives for people to behave in particular ways. Social norms threaten non-legal sanctions for certain behaviors. Lastly, the architecture constrains the set of possible behaviors (Lessig). Social norms, are without question, a modality of regulation in play with online file sharing programs.
Dan Kahan of Boston University offers a perspective on the creation of social norms, and understanding how and why the selfish human can or would be normed to cooperate. “The new theory of collective action suggests that when people perceive that others are behaving cooperatively and contributing to some public good, then individuals will themselves contribute to the public good without the need for external motivation” (Levin, 10). We see quite a bit of this online with P2P networks. There is a perception that the P2P networks are mostly users sharing, which proliferates the social norm that sharing files and downloading digital content contributes to the public good. In order to allow for the social norm of cooperation without selfish motivations, as mentioned by Kahan, you need what University of Chicago law professor Lior Jacob Strahilevitz calls, a “‘charismatic code’, a technology that presents each member of a community with a distorted picture of his fellow...