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Technology design and power: Freedom and control in communication networks

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The design of technologies with particular sets of affordances for user action reflects and embeds particular sociopolitical values in the technological artefacts themselves. In relation to networked communication technologies like the Internet, design values of openness and decentralization accord with the hegemonic value of freedom as an inherently positive social and political concept. Yet freedom is also an elastic concept that contains the possibility for the freedom of powerful interests to exert controls – technological, state and legal – over the very networks designed to facilitate freedom. This article reviews how such controls are made manifest, with a particular focus on the role of technology design, in the areas of surveillance, censorship and intellectual property. It then concludes by addressing how such controls might be resisted using the affordances of open and decentralized networks. The interplay between freedom and control in communication networks is crucial for the construction of contemporary modes of citizenship, publics and participation.

Keywords: citizenship; control; design; freedom; networks; resistance; technology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ryerson University 2: Université du Québec a Montréal-Téluq

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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