Reflection – NWICO to WSIS

The MacBride Commission’s 1980 report to UNESCO, which formulated the basis for the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), and eventually for the WSIS, concentrated on global issues of media and communication. Among the many themes investigated in the report that resonate today, the role of international governance bodies for both fostering and regulating media and communications stands at the fore. In particular, a lingering dissonance between institutions’ stated purposes and their effective practices highlights the longest-standing struggles incumbent upon global IT governance.
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Internet – Synthesis – On Newness

The question of what, after all, is so new about the internet has run through the introductory and summary posts in this series. It is a divisive question. Some proclaim the revolutionary, worldchanging emergence of the internet a wholly unique phenomenon. Others describe its continuity with older forms of media, communication, technology, or ideas. And each vein has its proponents and detractors of the internet’s cultural effects, which seem ubiquitously manifest, though not unequivocally ethically or morally valenced. Since we are concerned, here, with not just cultural effects but also cultural conditions for today’s internet, though, we cannot neatly reduce our approach to any of these positions.

Each position here assumes that the internet is an historical phenomenon -- as opposed to an event, for example -- and that it has an ethical valence, if not necessarily a political one.
Ethical valences for interpretation of the internet as an historical phenomenon
Instead, we can find another way of asking the question – a way that rests implicitly in the same discussions and arguments about newness. That is, we can ask, what is historically significant about the internet? This minor switch allows us to explore slightly different avenues than those commonly traversed by humanities and social-sciences research. Instead of “new media,” in particular, we can focus more precisely on the internet as such. Further, by stripping the newness from our central questioning, we avoid freighting our inquiry with ontological assumptions. In so doing, we are better able to determine what is new and what is old, in greater detail.

So, we are faced with a series of comparisons and contrasts.

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