In the internet’s 50th year Nesta, the global innovation foundation, has spoken to tech pioneers, government officials, journalists, artists, activists and social media influencers to reflect on whether the internet at 50 is a force for good or for bad.
Finding CTRL: Visions for the Future Internet, launched today and contains over thirty contributions, ranging from essays and short stories to poems and short films, from over fifteen countries and five continents. This online collection is an important contemplation on the internet’s history so far, and calls for people at all levels of society to become more active in creating positive visions for the future.
Initial internet pioneers dreamt of an internet that would be open, free and decentralised, but the story of the internet today is mostly a story of loss of control. Just a handful of companies are determining what we read, see and buy, influencing our decisions about where we live, who we vote for, and even who we love and who we are. There is an increasing sense of unease about this power imbalance in a time where every week seems to bring a new scandal.
Ordinary people are increasingly reclaiming control. Communities from Catalunya to Detroit are building their own local internet networks, cities are fighting back against Airbnb, and activist Berliners sick of gentrification successfully managed to keep Google out of Kreuzberg.
The online book will explore alternative visions of the future internet from across the world. Each contributor has a unique background, as most were selected via an open call for submissions held last autumn. As such, the book collects both established and emerging voices, all reflecting on the same crucial questions: where did we come from, but more importantly, where do we go next?
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, talks about his website, the challenges he’s faced in building the world’s largest repository of knowledge and how we can build a better future internet.
Shoshana Zuboff, scholar and author of a number of books including The Age of Surveillance Capitalism speaks about big tech’s harmful business models, and what we can do to take back control.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia from 2006-2016, talks about the digital transformation that enabled citizens in Estonia to interact with the state via the internet, a process which resulted in Forbes labelling him, “the architect of the most digitally savvy country on earth.”
James Ball, esteemed author, investigative journalist and famously the in-house journalist for Wikileaks, focuses on the infrastructure that powers the internet and the idea that the majority of this supporting infrastructure was built when the internet was a ‘playground’. Now the internet has become an essential tool, how do we go about rebuilding these core protocols?
Russel Hlongwane, South African filmmaker, presents a six-minute experimental video exploring the meaning of 'cloud culture' and the haze we find ourselves in.
Hussein Kesvani’s, journalist and author, has written a piece which guides us through the history of the internet, from radical openness to complete concentration of power.
Audrey Tang, hacker and activist and now the first digital minister of Taiwan, discusses her work championing open source technology and digital democracy.
Oobah Butler, a journalist who famously got a completely fake restaurant to the top spot on the London TripAdvisor by playing into this dominant social media aesthetic, shows how much we let ourselves be guided what the internet tells us is cool.
Sara Melotti, photographer and former instagram influencer, speaks out about the app and its more sinister side.
Artist Dries de Roeck asked school children in both Belgium and Senegal to “draw the internet”. Older children frequently drew YouTube and Instagram logos, reinforcing how centralised the internet has become.
Roos Groothuizen, the Dutch artist, demonstrates how difficult it is to keep the tech giants in check through drawn diagrams to illustrate the repetitive nature of THE scandals afflicting them.
Katja Bego, data scientist at Nesta and curator of the book says, “We live in a world where new technologies happen to us; the average person seems to believe they have very little agency to change things within the current political and economic parameters. Yet things don’t have to be this way. In a time where the future of the internet is usually painted as bleak and uncertain, we need positive visions about where we go next. Finding CTRL is a challenge to us all to play a part in reinventing an internet that is more inclusive, human-centric and resilient.”
This collection is published as part of the Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, the European Commission’s ambitious new flagship programme that seeks to build a more inclusive, democratic and resilient future internet by the end of the next decade.
The NGI project is a flagship programme run by the European Commission. Engineroom’s role is twofold - to imagine a radical new vision for the future internet - an internet that promotes European values - inclusivity, resilience and is human-led by 2025, and to identify and evaluate the key enabling technologies and topics that could lead us towards this future internet.
For more information contact Juliet Grant in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2668 or 07866 949047, [email protected]
Notes to editors:
Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.