- Chun argues against the technological deterministic belief that links freedom with control technologies. She says that increasing privatization of networks and the unknown nature of computers and the Internet are responsible for widespread paranoia about these technologies. While the Internet was initially billed as the new medium that would liberate the masses, it is actually a control technology that limits human behavior. However, it is not technology alone that does so, but rather it is the way in which governments and private companies take advantage of certain intrinsic qualities of the Internet in order to control.
- Chun writes, “The Internet, conflated with cyberspace, was sold as a tool of freedom, as a freedom frontier that by its nature could not be tamed: the Internet supposedly interpreted censorship as damage and routed around it” (2). One of the main benefits of the Internet was that it allegedly freed users of their bodies, meaning “limitations from race, class, and sex…social responsibility and conventions” (2). These freedoms could supposedly “solve social and political problems” (2). It is important to note that “freedom” signifies self-autonomy. However, the very nature of the Internet is that the user is locked into a computer. The user is limited by the hardware and software present. Whoever manufactures and maintains the hardware, software, and networks will ultimately exercise some amount of control over the user’s experience. This argument highlights the contradictory nature of the Internet’s freedom.
The very fact that this debate about power and control exists is a sign of the paranoia over power and is indicative of the connection of technological to political problems. Chun “argues that these questions and their assumptions are not only misguided but also symptomatic of the increasingly normal paranoid response to and of power. This paranoia stems from the reduction of political problems into technological ones—a reduction that blinds us to the ways in which those very technologies operate and fail to operate” (3). This paranoia draws largely from the historical and social contexts of the invention of the Internet as being from the realm of military and research. After the events of the twentieth century, it is obvious why people would be so skeptical of control technologies, which is why they would be so eager to embrace free technologies.
The Internet, while supposedly free, is actually a tool for surveillance and control, among many other purposes. However, this surveillance doesn’t permeate society to the extent that people think. There is so much data that it would be impossible for any one or any government to surveil everyone. This point goes back to the widespread paranoia that developed due to fears of the government and private companies knowing anything and everything about everyone.
- I don’t entirely understand the section on ideology. I get her argument that users of certain OS systems behave differently, but I’m not sure of the connection to ideologies of determinism and free will. Specifically, what is it to think of software as ideology?
What is her argument on cybersex? I understand what she means about the proliferation of sex on the Internet and the various privacy concerns, but what does she mean when she writes about “sexuality is key to determining the subject?”
- Chun makes a compelling argument about the lack of freedom in fiber optics. Although the Internet was billed as the final medium that would liberate humanity, it seems to be anything but that. What would a totally free medium look like? How would a medium like that even come about since it would not be able to have a creator?