Security Vs. Freedom: The Politics of Communications Technology

The debate over public versus private sector ownership and development of communication resources has a loaded and extensive history, which often seems to escape conversations of net neutrality, public investment in broadband , and new TSA security measures in the 21st century.

Armand Mettelart’s “The Emergence of Technical Networks” subtly traces the public-private sector line through the first forms of communicating up to the 19th century. From long-distance communications (the “black cabinet” of French King Louis XI in 1464) to electric telegraphy to the first post office, Mettelart’s history relates the fear-driven policies of the nation states surrounding these communications to the rise of technical networks and communication as vessels of mass opinion.

Today, we have the same conversations about policies of security and freedom to negotiate between public and private sector in the communications field, but we may lack the hindsight to understand the implications of security upon the communications architectures coming into play.

We are familiar with discussions of propaganda, as Dr. Gary Weaver pointed out in “The Evolution of International Communication As A Field of Study.” And as the 10th anniversary of September 11 approaches, we know the tangible ways communication technologies have filled the call for greater security and – some argue – greater infringements on personal freedoms.

Perhaps the greater conversation is the type of politics that communication tools carry, if any. Perhaps wielded by a state obsessed with ultimate control, this is irrelevant. But might we have communication architectures that inevitably lean more toward state control or more toward individual freedom depending on who is controlling them or that inherently carry a certain message to the masses?

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One Comment to “Security Vs. Freedom: The Politics of Communications Technology”

  1. Erin,
    I think its really interesting that you correlate communication architectures (i.e. the Internet) with either individual or state control, this is a battle that U.S. political parties have been fighting since its inception and will continue to do so. Last spring at the Global Internet Governance Forum, this was a topic that I found fascinating and remains unresolved, how DO you govern the Internet? Since hackers essentially created it’s foundation, governments have to hire them to make some type of secure network for information, so they know the loopholes to get around that infrastructure, and the cycle continues. It seems to be a game of private sector innovation and techno-geek warfare, where by the time the government catchs up by forming a regulation, it is deemed useless. Is there anyway to circumvent this?

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