kNOw Future Inc.

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Open Publishing Blues…

In recent days italy.indymedia.org has shut down, citing  internal decision-making problems. The Italian portal averaged over 30,000 users daily and was probably the most intensely used per capita in the network.

Indymedia was born six years ago today, created for the weekend of protest against the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. Initially intended to function only for the durtation of the protests, enthusiasm for an unmediated information flow from the street to the screen transformed it into an institution. Obviously this entailed some problems, as the system had not been designed for long-term use and its founding philosophy left it wide-open to sabotage. Open publishing lies at the root of the controversey as a design commitment to a particular idea of freedom of speech, libertarian (in the US sense) and absolute. Both internal pressures (orthodoxies within the radical left which constitute its principal constituency) and external imperatives (legal action for alleged anti-semitism, defamation, subversion etc) required the putting into place of collective management mechanisms, editorial teams who would monitor the newswire for offending materials.

Cutting edge at the time of its birth, indymedia failed to develop with the changing technological conditions. Any attempt to introduce more sophisticated features to deal with content-editing was greeted with accusations of censorship. The results of this dynamic were perverse: those wishing to see the tools progress began developing alternative CMS clandestinely and the technological landscape of the network became balkanised, as detailed in Mako Hill’s article on the subject. Tools that could be used to maintain transparency over collective management of the content – SCOOP and Slashcode to name but two examples – were also blocked because they required users to log-in, entailing the collection of personal data in the logs and consequent privacy questions.

Indymedia italy remains available as an archive, and the remnants of the community have left message on the homepage explaining that the closure was decided in the hope that it could catalyse a process of regeneration. As yest it is unclear what the social and technica basis for this rebirth will be, but with such a large and avid user-base it shouldn’t take long for that vacuum so abhorred by nature to be filled.

November 30, 2006 - Posted by | communication, social cooperation, technology

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