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"Utopian Potential of the Internet": Astra Taylor on How to Take Back Power

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We are joined by author and activist Astra Taylor, whose new book, "The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age," argues net neutrality is just the beginning of ensuring equal access and representation online. "The utopian potential of the net is real," Taylor notes. "The problem is the underlying economic conditions haven't changed. The same old business imperatives, the same old incentives that shaped the old model and made it so problematic are still with us. The Internet might have disrupted investigative journalism, but it didn't disrupt advertising."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1" by Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeff Mangum's band. Jeff Mangum is the husband of our guest today, Astra Taylor. We continue today to look at equal access to the Internet. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Astra, your book, I think one of the fascinating parts, to me, is you really try to reach out to young people who are-who have been sold a bill of goods about the liberating quality of the Internet and who don't see some of the dark side of what is happening, because obviously every new technology promises to liberate the human race. It happened, as you mentioned, with the telegraph. It then happened again with early radio. It happened again when cable came around. And now this new communications technology, the Internet, has the same promises. Your concerns about the dark side of what's happening?

ASTRA TAYLOR: Yeah, I love that you picked up on that. I really sort of wanted to write something that would influence the younger generation the way that books by Robert McChesney influenced me when I was beginning my path to become an independent media maker, filmmaker and activist. And I think, you know, these technologies have existed long enough to kind of see that the new system is looking a lot like the old, you know, and it actually makes it-I think that people who have grown up with these technologies will have a much more realistic relationship to them, because by the time I grew up, when there's television, I just took it for what it was. It was, you know, something that was just part of the environment, and all of the sort of romance that it had been imbued with wasn't there.

But I think it's important not to get cynical. The utopian potential of the net is real. It's a remarkable innovation. And it's true that this sort of many-to-many quality, the fact that it enables us to talk directly with people, it's very different than the old broadcast model. The problem is the underlying economic conditions haven't changed. The same old business imperatives, the same old incentives that shaped the old media model and that made it so problematic are still with us. So, the Internet might have disrupted investigative journalism, but it didn't disrupt advertising, you know, and that's what I'm trying to-that's what I'm trying to emphasize.   


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