The battle between industry and ideology
Just a quick word on something that might sound obvious to all of us, yet is a topic that in my opinion is applicable on most new media discourses. The struggle between ideology and the ‘real world’.
Early may of this year, Dutch telecom provider KPN announced their plans for the next few years. Their strategy included the blocking of certain Internet services including Voice Over IP (VoIP). These services would then be offered to customers as an additional product that goes with their regular Internet access. This of course, results in an additional fee for those who want to use VoIP.
The reason for this new strategy was simple. Like most other mobile providers, KPN is suffering from a loss of sales because of new and more widely used Internet services. Services like WhatsApp replace SMS and VoIP services like Skype have the potential to replace their regular telephony. This gives mobile providers enough reason to look for a way control Internet traffic in order to sustain their own business model.
The Internet is born free. Based on certain values back traceable to the ideologies of early computer scientists. Richard Barbrook describes these utopian ideas as The High-Tec Gift Econonomy. A digital economy where virtual objects have no scarcity and therefore could and should not apply to the more capitalistic values of the modern day economy (((( Barbrook, Richard. 1998. The Hi-Tech Gift Economy. First Monday, 3, 12, ))
The Internet as it exists today, could be seen as a hybrid. For it is founded on the early principles of information freedom, used and developed by corporations to purposely fit in the modern economy.
However, the ideological principles serve as a blue print for the architecture of the Internet. The notion of freedom is incorporated in the mechanisms, the rules of the Internet. It’s coded and protected in the protocols. By blocking certain protocols, mobile providers are trying to control the Internet on this technological layer.
This struggle between industry and ideology (or the results of ideology) is a common phenomenon in new media. The music industry being one of the most well known. In this particular industry we can see new forms of companies rising, that are closer to the principles of the Internet. Streaming services like Spotify are an example of this. Instead of opposing they incorporate the values of the Internet in their business models. Instead of opposing ideologies Spotify’s business model is founded on the digital field they operate. KPN’s business model is conflicting with this ideology, and therefore it is limiting it’s own innovation.
Maybe the future is in this kind of hybrid business who focus more on the technological advantages of new media, instead of seeing them as a threat to their business model.