Understanding Net-neutrality

This week in North Philly Notes, marketing assistant Aaron Long discusses Net-neutrality and the Temple University Press titles that address this timely issue.

Net-neutrality has occupied the nation’s attention, since Verizon’s appeal of the FCC’s old net neutrality rules labeled the prior regulations unconstitutional. Finally after an uncertain year for the internet, Tom Wheeler, a former industry lobbyist and the current FCC Commissioner, made plans to reclassify the internet as Title II utility, allowing the organization to effectively regulate internet service providers and their practices.

Net-neutrality stands for the equal treatment of data across any network. Users connect to any network provider and have equal access to every service available, regardless of the company. The basic concept has been the triumphing slogan of the Internet for decades, allowing startups like Google and Facebook to compete against more established brands and emerge as international phenomenon. Since Verizon’s appeal, internet service providers announced services utilizing paid prioritization of digital content. The matter ignited the nation with every major news outlet reporting on it and one especially funny response from John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. Where he compared Tom Wheeler to a dingo babysitting an infant. Even president Obama urged the FCC to reclassify the internet as a utility under Title II with a YouTube video on the White House’s official channel.

The addition of Title II status marks a dramatic shift in the United States’ policy on internet providers with the potential to drive down prices and increase competition. However, the matter could start a legal war between media juggernauts like Comcast and the FCC agency. To learn more, please review Temple University Press’s extensive collection on the history of telecommunications, the cable industry, and tech policy.

Blue Skies, by Patrick Parsons

blue_sky_reviseCable television is arguably the dominant mass media technology in the U.S. today. Blue Skies traces its history in detail, depicting the important events and people that shaped its development, from the pre-cursors of cable TV in the 1920s and 1930s to the first community antenna systems in the 1950s, from the creation of the national satellite-distributed cable networks in the 1970s to the current incarnation of “info-structure” that dominates our lives. Author Patrick Parsons also considers the ways that economics, public perception, public policy, entrepreneurial personalities, the social construction of the possibilities of cable, and simple chance all influenced the development of cable TV.

Thoroughly documented, carefully researched, yet lively, occasionally humorous, and consistently insightful, Blue Skies is the genealogy of our media society.

Air Wars by Jerold Starr  **Best Title for this Topic!**

air-warsA riveting narrative of the price of politics, money, and ambition, and an inspirational account of how ordinary people can prevail over powerful interests, Air Wars tells how a grassroots movement of concerned citizens at WQED in Pittsburgh was able to overcome enormous institutional influence in their quest for public accountability.

These citizens believed strongly in public television’s unique mission to serve the diverse social and cultural needs of local communities. When their own station neglected this mission in the search for national prestige and bigger revenues, they felt profoundly betrayed.

Jerold Starr exposes the political and commercial pressures that made strange bedfellows of the top officials of public broadcasting, the Democratic Party establishment, Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition, home-shopping and “infomall” king Lowell “Bud” Paxson, and billionaire right-wing publisher/philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife.

Far beyond Pittsburgh, Starr looks at how the reform movement has spread to major cities like Chicago, Phoenix, Jacksonville, and San Francisco, where citizen activists have successfully challenged public stations to be more community responsive.

Finally, he outlines an innovative plan for restructuring the public broadcasting service as an independently funded public trust. Joining this vision with a practical strategy, Starr describes the formation of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, a national membership organization with a grassroots approach to putting the public back into public broadcasting.

Reverse Engineering Social Media, by Robert Gehl

Reverse Engineering_smRobert Gehl’s timely critique, Reverse Engineering Social Media, rigorously analyzes the ideas of social media and software engineers, using these ideas to find contradictions and fissures beneath the surfaces of glossy sites such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Gehl adeptly uses a mix of software studies, science and technology studies, and political economy to reveal the histories and contexts of these social media sites. Looking backward at divisions of labor and the process of user labor, he provides case studies that illustrate how binary “Like” consumer choices hide surveillance systems that rely on users to build content for site owners who make money selling user data, and that promote a culture of anxiety and immediacy over depth.

Reverse Engineering Social Media also presents ways out of this paradox, illustrating how activists, academics, and users change social media for the better by building alternatives to the dominant social media sites.

Technological Visionsedited by Marita Sturken, Douglas Thomas, and Sandra Ball-Rokeach

Technological-Visions

For as long as people have developed new technologies, there has been debate over the purposes, shape, and potential for their use. In Technological Visions, a range of contributors, including Sherry Turkle, Lynn Spigel, John Perry Barlow, Langdon Winner, David Nye, and Lord Asa Briggs, discuss the visions that have shaped “new” technologies and the cultural implications of technological adaptation. Focusing on issues such as the nature of prediction, community, citizenship, consumption, and the nation, as well as the metaphors that have shaped public debates about technology, the authors examine innovations past and present, from the telegraph and the portable television to the Internet, to better understand how our visions and imagination have shaped the meaning and use of technology.

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