title: 'Communication infrastructure – a form of resistance?'
subtitle: 'Fripost: digital technology as a common good for user freedom and control'
author: 'Gustav Eek <email@example.com>'
date: tor 13 jul 2017 20:18:26 CEST
Proposal to FSCONS 2017
In this lecture the democratic principles of Fripost, the free email
association (founded in 2010) will be presented. Infrastructure for
electronic communication will be resembled with a common good (a
resource). That using a critique of the *public--private* dichotomy,
and the tragedy of the commons. I will then demonstrate how also
complicated resources can (and must) be made subject to democratic
The importance of Internet as communication medium can not be
questioned. For those who take user freedom seriously it is saddening
to see how the Internet has changed from being a common and highly
distributed network to the increasingly privatised web we encounter
In this lecture I will present the democratic principles of Fripost,
the free email association which was founded as a reaction to that
development. I will resemble infrastructure for electronic
communication with a common good (a resource), and I will demonstrate
how also complicated resources can (and must) be made subject to
Fripost and its foundation and democratic principals has been
presented several times since its constitution in 2010, also at
FSCONS. This is why the lecture also will take a different and broader
stand, inspired by some recent readings. The Fripost initiative will
also be put in context of local struggles with global implication.
In short, the idea that every resource needs an single responsible and
managing owner is unsatisfactory as well as the dichotomy
*public--private*. What is not managed can not yield profit. But some
things are to important even to be managed. Naturally this touches on
a critique (which has been presented many times before) of Hardin's
classical tragedy of the commons. Regarding the enclosure of the
commons, management in it self causes the scarcity, The commons are
not scarce resources that requires management.
It is not obvious, however, how digital technology and technology
based on Internet can be recognised as a resource and common
good. Though "friendly" in its usage, digital technology is
intrinsically intricate and complicated in its internals, and the
distance is far between the providing and consuming ends. What is the
interpretation of democratic influence and control in the case of
digital technology? And what is user freedom for Internet services?
Here Fripost becomes an example of central communication
infrastructure that implements democratic "ownership", maintenance,
and development. And democracy is *equal influence*: it does not stop
at the gathering of opinion.
Equal influence is ambitious, and how it is interpreted in Fripost
will be discussed in its details, but in short the key is that
Fripost's commitment is equally much social as it is technical: all
decisions originates from the members, short term as well as
strategical; activities are balanced between the association's three
legs: (a) technology, (b) adult education, and (c) propaganda; and
sustainability is the leading word.
I humbly recognise that what we do is small in scale and ambition. But
I still want to put it in the context of important local struggles
that with global implication. In the world, farmers fight for land,
urban folks for water, and students for independent universities. We
fight for the right and free access to Internet and the means for
communication. Internet is designed to be distributed and for equal
unlimited access for everyone. That sounds quite much like a common
good, and commons require equal influence.
The moral of the presentation is of course that we should fight back
against the privatisation process, particularly that of the
web. Fripost illustrates that it is possible and also suggest how it
can be done.