Embassy of Internet

    1. 01

      James Wrigley

      Mandate:

      29.04.2019 - 12.05.2019

      Links:

      Instagram

      Twitter

      Website

    In his period as Ambassador of Internet, James Wrigley conducted a series of interviews to investigate the issues that concern the web today and possible future scenarios.

    Originally published on:

    bottomline.publicsource.xyz

    23 Years in Cyberspace

    Introduction

    On February 8th, 1996 cyber2 4.com was the platform for what was at the time, the largest one-day online event, 24 Hours in Cyberspace. The project brought together the world’s top 1,000 photographers, editors, programmers and interactive designers to create a digital time capsule of online life, the goal was to not simply showcase websites and technology, but rather, focus on those whose lives were affected by the use of the growing internet, within the 24 hours that the site was active the project received more than 4 million hits. Commissioned for the pioneering project, John Perry Barlow, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, a widely distributed paper on the applicability (or lack thereof) of government on the rapidly growing internet. This declaration set out, in sixteen short paragraphs, a rebuttal to government of the internet by outside force, creating a powerful picture of the internet, not as a network controlled by giant corporations, but instead, as a free and open space, an alternative to old systems of politics and power.

    “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

    But what did the future hold. This case study seeks to explore the everyday use of the internet by looking back to look forwards, examining the issues that surround our use of the internet today, the worries we have for the future and how, if possible, we can change the future of the internet. This particular case study will take a long form approach and was started in collaboration with Embassy of Internet, our lead researcher for this project, and acting Ambassador of Internet is James Wrigley of Public–Source.

    What are our early memories of the Internet? How do we use it now, and what issues do we believe to be most important about our use of the Internet? John Perry Barlow’s decoration was not successful, and for many, it was seen as a fantasy and bore no relation to was what really emerging online. In 2004, Barlow himself reflected on his work, specifically regarding his optimism. His response was that “we all get older and smarter”. If you visit cyber24.com now, you are visiting a site dedicated to Royal Jelly, beauty treatments and skin care products, a stark contrast to the original domain of February 8th, 1996.

    The common internet of today are giant networks of information, data and consumerism. New technologies have allowed us to upload millions of images and videos onto the internet, in contrast to Barlow’s statements, the web now beings to look and feel like the real world, filled with videos fo animals, personal moments of experience, extraordinary events and horrific terror videos, but above everything, our personal web spaces have become a way for people to present themselves as they want to be seen. In the early days, the web felt like a space to explore and get lost, but with the rise of social media came the rise of filter algorithms, hyper-consumerism, influencers and the production of personal and information echo chambers. These new forms of guidance are always watching, listening and guiding your hand on the mouse. The internet has been compared to that of the dystopian “cyberspace” of William Gibson novels many times, that networks are used to spy on everyone, controlling ideological limits of popular discourse by selling ourselves back to us, if you liked that, you’ll love this.

    Facebook Group, Censorship, Walled gardens & Observations

    There were three strategies in gathering initial information that aimed to use the Internet as a form of communication, collaboration and discussion from public communities online, similar too that of John Perry Barlow’s vision of cyberspace. The first strategy was to simply speak with acquaintances and friends who would ideally reply and answer the six questions within the initial two week deadline; it is important at this point to remember that these questions are not focused on any particular group of people, rather the more that answer these question, the broader and more reliable the information is.

    Questions & Study

    The initial research for this case study it to explore nostalgia online and to gather a broad sense of the issues we all face or are concerned about. This case study and all the questions and group inclusion will stay open permanently, as to constantly evolve alongside the fast paced movement of online culture. It will cover many topic over the years, and in will inevitably change forms. If you would like to take part in these questions and case study as a whole please get in touch.

    Interviews

    Interview 01

    Username/Name: Mario Klingemann / Quasimondo

    Age: 49

    
Gender: M

    
Location: Munich, Germany


    Job Role/Description: Artist

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    I guess it was that exciting feeling of entering an unknown and unexplored world and never knowing what treasures could be found out there or what surprise might be waiting behind the next link.

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    Everything has become professionalized. Money and attention seem to be the most important motivations why many people share something online. The almost naive playfulness and spirit of experimentation I as I experienced it in the early years is hard to find these days. I. The early days it felt more like everything is possible now most of the "experience" is streamlined and comfortable.

    The other thing is overregulation. Governments make laws that regulate what you can't do on the internet and by adding surveillance methods and filters they try to make sure that you comply.

    Lastly the users have changed. Since initially you needed a little bit of technical expertise and knowledge to enter and navigate the internet it was more of a nerd affair. Now everyone is online, which is of course desirable, but it also has raised the ratio of idiots and gullible people which in consequence gave us trolls, fake news and lynch mobs. [Society]

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    I use it to find material for my art - one of my favourite sites for that search is the Internet Archive. And of course I use it to share what I make and communicate with peers.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    As I mentioned before, the biggest problem I see are the forces that try to regulate and tame the internet. And this is driven by many actors: governments, lobby groups, companies but also "concerned citizens" that try to limit free speech and free expression.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    I want more rough edges, more dirty corners and of course no censorship, content filters or surveillance.

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    archive.org

    Interview 02

    Username/Name: Levi Ashley

    Age: 27

    
Gender: M

    
Location: Manchester

    Job Role/Description: Financial Analyst

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    Gathering information quickly questions go unanswered / staying in contact easily with friends that do not live close to you / finding new music.

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    I rely on the internet more now, gone are the days when you needed to guess where you are going when in a new city, you may have asked for directions in the past and had some contact with another human being, this is now gone. Also, things which I used to find unbelievable are now normal and the extraordinary is now ordinary.

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    Music, reading articles, listening to podcasts, research, films, events and keeping up to date with friends lives.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    Security, as things become more automated and information such as passwords are stored on devices this makes people more vulnerable. For instance, passwords are stored on iCloud with Apple and if someone gets access to your iCloud they have access to everything, you bank accounts, the lot. Also, as monitoring is getting more and more, privacy is going less and less, the worrying element is that eventually, other may be able to see what websites you have been on, who you have been speaking with, etc. Another area which is worrying is bullying, I don’t know much about the area but can see how easily it is to harm others with words online whilst not seeing the repercussions of what you have said.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    This is a touchy subject, we need to keep people protected whilst also giving people the freedom to enjoy the internet. Providing a way of users having the protection with the option of being unmonitored when they want to view what they like. Freedom of information is something I would like to see in the future but it will be hard with the rise of online bullying and cyber security linked with terrorism, etc.

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    quora.com

    Interview 03

    Username/Name: Chan-yang Kim

    Age: 28

    
Gender: M

    
Location: Manchester

    Job Role/Description: Chef

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    Growing up, playing games on websites like MiniClip and Runescape. I vividly remember seeing the first ever YouTube video in my high school IT class, the one at the zoo. I looked forward to those classes in the IT building, because there were so many students crammed in, you could just mess around on the internet of you found the best spot.

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    I think I know more about the internet now, which can be a double edged sword. Sometimes, the more you know, the less you wish you knew. Also the speed, I remember painfully loading things up with dialup internet. Now everything is pretty fast, especially in my birth country South Korea (I believe they have the fastest in the world?).

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    The main reason I use the internet is for information and communication. Communication between friend and I, as well as with strangers around the world. This is something, until relatively recently, that would take weeks or months, to the mere seconds it takes now. It's quite magical when you think about it.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    The UK government has tried passing laws to enforce censorship, several times under different names. This is disconcerting, one only has to look to China to see how this can end up - the country with the biggest population in the world has its most important source of information controlled by the state. In conjunction with this is the mass spread of false information, as a tool to divide and misdirect people, á la propaganda. Bombard people with so much information that it becomes nigh impossible to sift through the trolls and the lies to be able to actually find the truth, which is hidden beneath it all.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    In all honesty, I'm not sure. I know censorship is important, nothing should be censored in my opinion. But how do you stop powerful states using the internet to spread false information, as well as to subvert foreign politics to support their own goals? I don't know.

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    Reddit (although it as its own share of problems!)

    Interview 04

    Username/Name: Joe Preston

    Age: 23

    
Gender: M

    
Location: Manchester

    Job Role/Description: Artist

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    My first memory of the internet is my Mum showing me that music video where they’re dancing on treadmills. (OK Go - Here It Goes Again)

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    That it’s know longer considered a nerdy hobby for caricatured dweebs in American films. Now if someone says they know how to code its not assumed that they’re also social rejects. Think about Internet dating, it's no longer considered for lonely weirdos, but everyone uses it and it's really normal.

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    Reading newspapers and magazine. Can’t afford to buy them properly but I sneak free trials and other peoples memberships all the time.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    The fact that there are loads of websites that look like legitimate media sites but actually any random fuck-head can write on them and there’s no one there to point out its an insane conspiracy theory.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    Almost anyone who says they need twitter for work is lying unless they’re actually trying to start the Arab Spring or lives in China. So I would make everyone who wants a social media account to have to apply like they’re trying to get one of those blue plaques on a building. Only really interesting people with jobs that actually need it are allowed one.

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    It’s a boring answer but 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

    Interview 05

    Username/Name: Wes Foster

    Age: 24

    
Gender: M

    
Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire

    Job Role/Description: Sales, cycling shop

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    Probably Runescape or MSN, a new way to be 'social' and have pen pals as such without knowing them.

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    It's now more all consuming, and is less of a choice and more of a necessity in our culture/society. To use it is much more integrated into us, and how we experience the world. All the answers are already there for us, so we can no longer allow ourselves to be wrong.

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    Organising (exhibitions, writing work etc.), looking at bikes. I do use it for things like Instagram too, but I'd say this is more out of habit than a choice.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    How integral it is to life, and how I spend so much time on it without actually spending time on it, ie. Developing or doing things, just allowing it to filter away.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    I never think of computer/screen time as 'quality' or down time, instead as a necessary thing to be doing at that given moment, so l don't particularly get to enjoy the websites I like, so a way of forcing me to spend less time on it so that it was more like an encyclopedia or dictionary - it didn't get used apart from when you need it or want it and make more effort to look into it.

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    Bikepacking.com

    Interview 06

    Username/Name: hexemanden

    Age: 18

    
Gender: M

    
Location: Denmark

    Job Role/Description: Student in Gymnasium

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    I remember being allowed to play y8 games on my mother’s PC when I was around 7, it was very exciting, but I wasn’t really aware of the fact that it was the internet, I did not know what it implied or contained. As I got older, I explored more things on the internet like funny videos on youtube or being able to search GTA cheats on google.

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    I think the internet has become accessible and possible for more people. The internet has changed a lot over the last years, the internet contains much more information and data than it did. Also, people have become more used to using the internet. These things have unfortunately also made it possible for people wanting to earn money to manipulate and affect users of the internet in commercial and sly ways.

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    I am an average internet user. I write and read messages, watch movies, make schoolwork, play games, read about different topics, buy things, sell thing, watch porn and upload music. But really, you could call all that some kind of communication. Between common people or between a company and potential buyers. I mostly communicate on the internet.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    My biggest concern is that the technology of the internet will evolve to an extend where it becomes either too hard to control, too easy to take advantage with, or too humanlike. These things would make it more powerful than human, not necessarily on its own, but in the wrong hands.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    I think the internet should be more non-biased. There is too much content based on recent activity, and that makes people too aliened or homogenic. It harms the ability to discover new things, exchange opinions, be surprised and evolve both socially, intellectually and aesthetically. Also, I think that these tendencies are caused by the money people, they make it too easy to repeat habits like seeing the same kind of series, listening to the same music, buying the same clothes or even following the same type of people on Instagram.

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    Youtube.com - so much content to educate, inspire and inform


    https://sahelsounds.bandcamp.com - good music


    https://filmcentralen.dk - danish online library for movies


    https://www.viking.virkelighed.dk/vaaben.htm - funny and inspiring

    sorry for not choosing one website only

    Interview 07

    Username/Name: Dhruv Mehrotra

    Age: 30

    
Gender: M

    
Location: NY

    Job Role/Description: Investigative Data Reporter at Gizmodo Special Projects

    1) What do you first remember most fondly about using the internet?

    Chatting with girls on AIM and exploring strange spaces. The internet always felt sort of taboo, I lived in a pretty strict household, so it was always a place where I could escape that.

    2) What do you think has changed the most since your early years on the web?

    I think if I were to have kept track of the total number of different websites I visited per year in 2005 versus now, the difference would be staggering. We are siloed into like 3 content aggregators competing for our attention. The web simultaneously feels sanitised and hostile in all the wrong ways. Whereas it used to feel kind of punk for a kid growing up in a strict family…its now the suburban shopping mall I used to throw bananas at ( true story ).

    3) How do you use the internet and what do you mostly use it for?

    News, computer programming, and shitty self promotion. I perform for twitter. It’s not me, it’s how I get work.

    4) What is your biggest concern about the internet and/or the future of the web?

    Every action anyone takes on the network is labor that produces value for someone else. This much is obvious…your behaviour online is the raw material for decision making systems to become more efficient in order to ultimately make other people money. This has created a feedback loop that is exacerbating the worst instincts of society…with the result being that the nature of work, the way we treat the environment, the way we treat each other… have all been reoriented towards apocalyptic efficiency. My biggest concern isn’t about the future of the web… its about the future the web has created.

    5) What would you change about the way we use the internet or how it is controlled now?

    I am reading a book where the internet just disappears. I’m not ready for apocalypse, I’d be the first to be eaten. I was going to write an answer about p2p and the hope of building our own networks for our own communities…but now I’m thinking…what if we just made the internet we have less efficient. A slow, clunky thing that is fully at odds with “move fast and break things”. What would that do?

    6) Link your favourite website (This could be a link to a site that you love now or simply a site that you loved from your internet childhood)

    This is the only website that should exist: http://slowhotcomputer.com/