Net Neutrality: To Rebrand or Not To Rebrand

Something interesting is happening on reddit that has the potential to impact the net neutrality debate. A California Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, is running a contest on reddit to rebrand net neutrality. Here’s the video in which Congresswoman Eshoo outlines the task at hand, and here’s the primary thread where the contest is going on.

So let’s jump in. I have some preliminary thoughts. I spent some time writing about the pros and cons of using reddit for this sort of endeavor, but I worry that’s burying the lede (the writeup is tucked away at the close of this blog post). I’d like to focus instead on questioning Congresswoman Eshoo’s underlying assumption  that net neutrality is the concept that needs rebranding.

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A side effect of my swimming in literature surrounding certainty, verifiability, and credibility is my increasing fixation on the epistemically shaky terrain we occupy, whether we like it or not. So many reassurances, platitudes, and dog-eared truisms boil down to some type of formal or informal fallacy.  As long as I resist miring myself in philosophical texts (at least until I’m through writing my thesis), I’m left cradling a humdrum, freshman year humanities student conclusion: there’s no way to be certain about anything, anyway.

I’ll resist diving into the series of arguments that place “truth” in the realm of social facts (though, in my opinion, this might be where the money’s at) and will spare you a relativistic rant. Instead, a different question: Is uncertainty so bad?

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internet vs Internet and Internet Exceptionalism

In revising for exams, I keep on stumbling up against what seems like a relatively minor inconsistency: the capitalization of the word “Internet.” Some scholars do, some scholars don’t. After pouring over enough articles, the voice in the back of my head piped up loud enough and yelled, “Which one is right!?”

Now, if you’re a writer who’s friends with a sufficient number of grammar snobs, these things become hardwired into your internal style guide. I’ve been rapped on the knuckles enough to default to “Internet” with a capital “I”. A quick visit to the Wikipedia page on this issue reveals, however, that there’s actually a bit of a debate (yes, yes, I know, I’m citing Wikipedia. I’m aware this isn’t really legitimate, but aren’t you surprised that there’s a page on this? So leave me alone). The New York Times, Chicago Manual of Style, and AP swear by the capital letter. The Guardian, the Economist, and Wired do not.

You could argue that this is trivial. Since I’m writing about it, I clearly believe the contrary. Don’t worry–there is, in fact, a reason why. Wired put out an explanation of their decision to de-capitalize “internet” in 2004 (along with “web” and “net”). The logic put forth by Tony Long, copyeditor of Wired, is this: Continue reading