Lecture: Communication infrastructure – a form of resistance

Fripost: digital technology as a common good for user freedom and control

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 today.

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 democratic control.

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 initative 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.


Day: 2017-11-05
Start time: 17:00
Duration: 00:45
Room: Java
Track: Open Technology: Infrastructure of the Future?
Language: en


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