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Friday 9 May 2014

THE PEACE, THE INTERNET AND THE LIBRARY (Sarajevo 6-9 June)

In order to commemorate the work of the peacemovements during the last 100 years we arrange the PEACE EVENT SARAJEVO 6-9 June.

But who are we?

How Far Should The Library Aid The Peace Movement and Similar Propaganda? asked librarian George F. Bowerman in his address at the American Library Association National Conference in Berkeley, California 1915.

We also want to look into the future. Therefore, the workshop PEACE AND THE INTERNET is also on the program in Sarajevo. Has the Internet created the prerequiste for a more enduring world peace? How can the library contribute to "the sympathetic world spirit" (Bowerman) which will certainly also be needed?

These questions are to be discussed against the background of the recent NetMundial-conference on "Internet governance" in Sao Paulo.

More about Peace Event Sarajevo via http://p2014.eu and about the workshop Peace and the Internet via http://is.gd/KluLtD

Monday 28 April 2014

The library to govern the net? Yes, but how?

That the library ought to govern the net — to the extent that the net needs to be governed at all — is one of my convictions since long. Which means that I am an advocate of library power. Obviously, this must be a kind of soft power, or "hegemony", to speak with Antonio Gramsci (one of the Italian political theorists who has been quoted earlier in this blog).

Institutions, or at least some of them, may have lots of soft power just because that's what people have been told and shown (by parents, teachers, artists, architects, journalists, etc.). In reality, however, power is a mix of soft and hard, and that mixture, the real power, can only be had and practised by people over other people. (It is a relation between people.) So it goes without saying that library power necessarily implies power of the librarians.

But do the librarians think of themselves as a powerful, and potentially even more powerful, group? Yes and no. Remember that 'A word after a word after a word is power' (Margaret Atwood) and consider the immense power of 'literature' as an institution of society. On the other hand, the librarian is used to see herself, or himself, as service personnel who should always be satisfied with his/her subordinate role: "...blithe as a milkmaid, or sumptuously dressed according to the wishes of its masters" (Suzanne Briet).

However, to make a long story short, let me just note that there will have to be a change now that the library is fusioned into the internet. The librarians will have to 'take the case'. My Norwegian librarian friend Anders Ericson said so, and I believe he is right.

Which case, what are we talking about? In these days, the subject of this blog-entry, the so called 'internet governance', is very much 'the case' and that is precisely the one that the librarians (globally) ought to take.

R. David Lankes, the author of The Atlas of New Librarianship might be of a not very different opinion, as appears from his tweet:

In contemporary discussions about internet governance, though, library is not yet a key concept, nor are the librarians yet at the helm. This does not mean that the librarians are more passive or stupid than anybody else. On the contrary, there are clear signs that that, for instance, IFLA (the huge umbrella of the world's national and other associations of professional librarians) has arrived right at the electronic frontier. Stuart Hamilton, IFLA's director of policy and advocacy,  tweeted:

But the librarians still stay content in their subordinate roles in relation to the power of the state governments and the corporations. How to exit from this voluntary serfdom? For the moment, multistakeholder governance might be the best emergency solution to the problem of how to govern the net. At least, multistakeholder means that we are many who have a stake. In fact, we all have. But precisely therefore it must also be admitted that internet governance and global political governance are inseparable. And this, in turn, means that internet governance has to be understood as a form of global governance.

Now, think of a basic law that tells the basic rules of the global governance. As citizens of the modern world, the first thing we have to see to is that tyranny is avoided. So there must be a separation of powers. Well, the traditional Montesquieuan triad of powers is OK with the present writer. Let the parliaments and governments continue as state powers in their national contexts. And, by all means, let there be an independent Judicial Power, both nationally, locally and internationally (for the persecution of crimes against humanity and other international crimes). In addition to the traditional state powers we will need, however, a fourth one: The Library Power. This is a new kind of soft power, based on the age-old institution of the library and the ethos of the librarians. "The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities." (R D Lankes)

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Post scriptum: Some days ago, Pauliine Koskelo, Justice of the Supreme court in Finland, was reprimanded for having posted emails to members of parliament. Her emails were seen as an attempt to teach lawmaking to the legislators. Some parliamentarians said that they did not need to  be lectured by a Justice.  Appearing on television yesterday, Koskelo defended her postings by saying they had not been intended to steer the decision-makers. She just wanted to inform them about some recent changes in the the positions taken by the Supreme Court. Her intention had not been to direct, but to inform. Freely, the librarians are also likely to run into conflict, from time to time,  with one or more of the three traditional powers of the state. But that's normal. No powers want to give away even an ounce of their power.

Library power is about the information that goes into the knowledge creation in the communities. Many good value-statements about transparency, acccess etc. —  all intended to steer the library power, as if the librarians would not since long ago have based their preservation (of the information of mankind) and facilitation (helping people to find and get it) on precisily those values!  —  have now been documented (once again!) in the document on internet governance from the NetMundial conference. The problem is that the executive state powers still have far too much power over the information. Not to speak about all that excessive corporate power over the information that the peoples  of this interconnected, networked world, badly need. (More often than not, the corporations tend to regard it their private intellectual property.)

In the article referred to by Stuart Hamilton (above), Danny O'Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) makes two critical points about the recent NetMundial conference on Internet Governance in Sao Paulo, Brazil:

First point:

"The NETmundial document may not be binding, but the ability of
right holder lobbyists in inserting language that has been previously been
used to terminate users' Internet connections, commandeer ISPs [Internet
Service Providers, often big telecoms -mb] to be the copyright police of
their own customers, and censor and filter the Internet demonstrates just
how swiftly even novel and apparently open deliberation of online rights can
be steered into dangerous territory. While NETmundial was far more open than
other lobbying venues, such as the ultra-secretive Trans-Pacific
Partnership, the resources of big business to wordsmith away and influence
drafters, compared to the relatively small ability for advocacy groups and
individual net users to influence the process, still shows in the final
text."

Second:

"NETmundial's most re-iterated point, and ultimately its entire
reason for existing -- to make a strong statement against mass
surveillance  -- was also diminished by the process. For all its commitment to
transparency and openness, governments, including the United States
government, had the last say in a closed meeting at the very end of
NETmundial. Even before then, the targets of [President Dilma] Rousseff's
and the Internet technical community's ire set about weakening an initial
strong draft document, as obtained by WikiLeaks before the public
consultation."


"But Internet governance forums are not the only place where the surveillance state can be challenged", O'Brien adds. Was he thinking specifically of the World Social Forum? I do not know, but I
did, while I was reading his article.