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pirates « Previous | |Next »
April 7, 2008

Loosely related to discussion of democratic participation via the internet, Lynne Spender has an interesting piece over at On Line Opinion. An entire political party, the Swedish piratpartiet (pirate party) formed on the internet and remains largely based there. The party is a political response to media industries' attitudes towards consumers' slack observance of copyright law.

Born digital and focused on the possibilities for an information society which is both open and diverse, the Pirate Party epitomises all of the characteristics of digital culture. It is Internet based with policies and principles developed collaboratively through discussion and debate on its website. Information can be uploaded, downloaded, edited and shared via the website; meetings take place online (there are no offices or “headquarters”) and its several well-attended public rallies have been arranged through the website, mobile phones and “social networking”.

The Pirate Party aims to gain the balance of power and overturn law which is increasingly out of whack with the expectations and values of ordinary folk, particularly the young. The possibilities of democratic participation on a government blog seems kind of pale next to the formation of an entire wiki party.

I've always thought that the utopian view of the internet as some kind of liberating force for the supressed masses was overblown. It's true that the odd group here and there has enjoyed some degree of success organising whatever it is they want to do through the internet. The Scientology pestering group Anonymous is currently enjoying the spotlight having managed to annoy the 'church' online and off. But in the wider world not much has changed. The cultures of access and participation which drive internet space don't seem to be rubbing off on supermarkets or schools and it's hard to imagine they ever will.

Still, the Pirate Party is an interesting departure point for thinking about where democracy might go should people start setting their sights a bit higher. So far we've limited ourselves to being Kevin's MySpace friend and bitching about the media on blogs. Not that there's anything wrong with that - the pseph bloggers performed an important public service during the poll wars and stand as an important example of why the media needs to be bitched about. But I suspect that Australian aspirations have been largely moulded by American blogs which was bound to disappoint. Another reminder that Australia is not America.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see where the Pirate Party goes. If the Greens can transform themselves from a single issue party the Pirates could too. If the Swedish blogosphere is anything like the Ozblogosphere there's enough spare talent lying around to put policy together on just about everything.

| Posted by Lyn at 10:45 AM | | Comments (8)


The Greens ceased being a single issue party years ago, if they ever were. I joined the Greens because they were the only party genuinely committed to human rights/social justice principles, not because of the environmental policies although I do support those. The Greens have policies on a broad range of issues which can be checked out on their web site. Interestingly, the policies are developed by a process of extensive consultation with members with input actively encouraged with the aim of achieving consensus. Democracy at work!

I agree with rossco. The greens have a high profile on social justice and human rights issues, as well as environmental ones.

That is why I'd like to see them gain the balance of power in the Senate. They'd keep Rudd Labor honest. Far more so than the fading Nationals or Nelson's ragtag Liberals. However the Greens have a low profile on digital economy issues.

the dynamic flow of the internet is Web 2 and user generated content. That is the liberating force. Social networking internet sites are not merely time wasters or means for teens to organise parties and share music. The use of social networking sites is causing a major shift in the internet’s function and design as Web2 becomes the social networking platform.

Social media such as blogs, podcasts and wikis have been increasingly present across the museum, library, archive and gallery sector. These social networking technologies have provided a platform and public face for conversations, collaborations and co-created content to be seen, accessed and distributed to a broad audience.

Global software piracy is big business. A report from the Business Software Alliance notes that across the globe, $2 in illegal software is racked up for every $1 in legitimate sales. In some countries, such as Albania and Zimbabwe, virtually all software is pirated. In several big markets, notably Russia and China, more than 80 percent of software is illegal.

Rossco, Nan,
The Greens have become much better at letting people know they're more than a single issue party. It's getting harder for hysterics to paint them that way.

It's getting harder to keep on top of developments in all the domains where this sort of change is happening. I get what you're saying about user generated content, but at the same time there's an expectation that we can access anything we want on the internet, including copyrighted content, and nobody can stop it. The thing I find most interesting though is the cultural change, how consumer expectations and ideas about what's normal has shifted from buying to sharing.

That this has reached a tipping point where some of the most powerful corporations in the world are having to reconsider their business model is pretty amazing. That a bunch of people can form a viable political party on networking and the wiki model is also pretty amazing.

Arrrrr, the pirate party, shiver me timbers it's the next big thing maties.

Well we need to get an opposition from somewhere.

Lyn I think we tend to expect social and institutional change to happen too quickly. All sorts of predictions were made about the internet and when most of them haven't happened, it's easy to conclude they were rubbish. But I think what happens is that the changes occur a generation or two later than was technologically possible, and it's a very messy process that we're all in the middle of so it's hard to step back and observe it.

Personally I'm surprised at how wikis are being adopted all over the place as management tools. They allow collaborative real-time decision-making without hierarchies or time-wasting communication channels. If they prove effective, they will present real challenges to conventional governmental processes because informed, interested citizens will demand the right to participate in policy-making and there will be no logistical or practical reason why they shouldn't. Democracy can be decentralised, in other words, to allow decisions to be made by people who actually know something about the issue.

It won't happen tomorrow but I bet it will start to happen somewhere within 10 years.

Agree with everything you've said there. My favourite prediction about the internet was the information superhighway Bill Gates was promising way back when. Everything was going to be super efficient with experts at our beck and call.

Look what actually happened. Everyone has a cat blog and a much greater choice of conspiracy theories to choose from. Gates apparently didn't anticipate the masses getting access to the means of production.

You say:

I get what you're saying about user generated content, but at the same time there's an expectation that we can access anything we want on the internet, including copyrighted content, and nobody can stop it.

Flickr is one driver of user generated content---the digital camera is changing the way we create our visual world, including Youtube. Another is peer-to-peer music.

There are parallel things going on from an analytical point of view. There's plenty of user generated content in the produsage sense, and some of that uses existing content like kids using copyright music on their scootering videos. Some, like Flickr, is mostly original content.

There's also the accessible and the inaccessible. Anyone can 'steal' music for example, but you still can't access academic research published in shut down journals even if you participated in the research.

Public expectations about access have changed.