An emerging issue in media and communications surrounds ‘feudalisation’ of the internet, referring to a centralized power structure where information is owned, censored and determined by the owners who in the public can view the information. A feudal network on the internet can be thought of as a ‘walled garden.’
Looking at the example of Facebook, the social networking site offers protection for its users as it tailors appropriate videos and content, also protecting your personal information from people who have not yet joined the walled garden. In return Facebook users join the network and upload their own information which then becomes the rightful property of the Facebook owners. In reality it seems to be an effective arrangement for both parties.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, agrees with comments made by internet activist Tim Berners Lee that using walled gardens maintains a ‘rigid approach that can limit innovation’ on the internet. Kroes suggests an open web platform needs to be implemented and the ‘digital handcuffs’ need to be removed.
The internet is a platform that has enabled individuals in modern society to create their own opinions and voices. The age of produsers and citizen journalists is erupting and information is not tailored to one media outlet with one political agenda, but has transformed into a realm of endless information so the passive audience has become active. Walled gardens prohibit this kind of behaviour in a “retrograde” manner as the users are fed information that is censored and do not own the rights to their own creations that can now be blocked and changed by the walled gardens. Zittrain (2008) believes walled gardens are a centralized system that “tries to turn us into an audience again.” This statement is partly true as walled gardens have the ability to block and close the content we view and put the systems we use into lockdown. An open platform would be an alternative that is an endless realm of information open for interpretation and free from the owners’ agenda. Lauren Northover
The Guardian, 2012, Ami Sedghi, “Get rid of the ‘digital hand cuffs,’” Battle for the Internet, UK.
Zittrain, J. 2008, “Tethered Appliances, Software as Service and Perfect Enforcement, In the Future of Internet and how to stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp. 101-126.