Radio Berkman: A Non-Unifed Theory of the Internet

Radio Berkman: A Non-Unifed Theory of the Internet

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I proposed a new approach to observe the trend of the Internet: Cyber Pluralism, which means the Internet is, and will continue be a network of different networks in terms of the legal and cultural contexts. At the same time, this observation does not deny the trend of globalization of the Internet law. On the contrary, the more the diversity of the Internet is manifested and acknowledged, the better the stakeholders will find the right way to achieve the justice. This approach differs from either the notion of “single Internet” or the notion of the splitting networks.


One challenge to this pluralistic view might be: the value-neutrality is actually impossible when a researcher is conducting her/his research. I agree that pretending to ignore the value may cause either the the cultrual relativism or even the disingenuousness. But if we bear in mind that different observer may have their own individual value behind their discoveries, and that the argument for pluralism is firstly a call for the patient attitude, the cyber-pluralism will still be a good approach to observe the differences among different Internet spheres. Without that patience, nothing can be improved except the ideological controversy. Therefore, the core of my view is that at the current stage, the Internet is still at its Cambrian Explosion, hence the first step for the so-called unified Internet should be observing and analyzing the diversity of the Internet spheres.


Radio Berkman is a series of online radio casting produced by  at Berkman Center at Harvard University. The latest session is an interview to me by Danial Jones on the topic. Here follows the post at the MediaBerkman blog by Danial Jones.


Does the discussion of a free and open internet really have to be an ideological debate? Some would say the situation is black or white, open or closed. You are either for freedom of content, the right to post anonymously, and to opt out of having your data tracked, or you are in favor of censorship, filtering, and monitoring.

But delve deeper into the discussion and you’ll notice the nuance. In fact, if don’t notice some caveats in the debate you’re probably not looking deeply enough.

One person who has spent a lot of time looking at those caveats is legal expert and Berkman Center fellow Donnie Dong. He says there is room for more than one perspective on how the net should work, and cautions against pursuing a common denominator along ideological lines. Culturally, linguistically, and individually we do not see a unified internet, regardless of the technological underpinnings that bring us together on the web.

Donnie says the multi-cultural web we are currently experiencing represents a kind of “cyberpluralism,” a phenomenon that would be good to acknowledge as we debate the future of the web.