Mobile and Open

[via Anish Sankhalia]Howard Rheingold writes:

A future where mobile media achieve their full economic and cultural potential, requires:

That people are free and able to act as users not consumers: Users can actively shape media, as they did with the PC and the Internet, not just passively consume what is provided by a few, as in the era of broadcast media and communications monopolies. If hardware can’t be hacked and software is locked away from individuals by technology or law, users won’t be free to invent.

An open innovation commons: When networks of devices, technological platforms for communication media, the electromagnetic spectrum, are available for shared experimentation, new technologies and industries can emerge. The way intellectual property is defined by international law, the kind of political regulations that govern spectrum use, the degree of extension of the rights of corporations to control the use of creations of individuals and to exert control over what others can create or distribute, will determine whether a cornucopia or a tragedy of the anti-commons occurs. (The tragedy of the commons is the despoiling of a shared resource because there is no way to exclude individuals from consuming it; a cornucopia of the commons emerges when aggregated individual self-interest of many people adds up to something that multiplies everyone’s resources instead of subtracting from what everybody has access to; and the tragedy of the anticommons renders a shared resource worthless by allowing too many interests to exclude others.)

Self-organizing, ad-hoc networks: Populations of users and devices have the power, freedom, and tools to link together technically and socially according to their own inclinations and mutual agreements. In their zeal to punish thieves, the music and motion picture industries are trying to criminalize all file-sharing, and so far they are winning the legislative and judicial battles. That’s the legal-political side of it. The techno-political battle is whether widely embraced open standards dominate, a proprietary monopoly emerges, or many competing proprietary standards contend.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.