Net Neutrality: The Frenzied Search For The Perfect Metaphor
In This Issue:
1. Editor's Note: Net Neutrality: The Frenzied Search For The Perfect Metaphor 2. Today's Top Story - TCS Set To Launch Chinese Operations, Counts Microsoft As Investor And Customer Related Stories: - Five Questions For Jerrold Grochow, VP Of Information Services And Technology At MIT - Certification Programs Arrive For IT Architects - Managed Services Market In 'Complete Chaos' 3. Breaking News - Phishing Via VoIP On Rise - Red Hat Upgrades Enterprise Linux Desktop - Microsoft: Exchange Server 2007 Beta 2 Is 'Feature Complete' - New JotSpot Software Aims To Make Wikis Less 'Nerdy' - 5 Ways To Button Up Internet Explorer - In Slaying Legacy IT Costs, The Data Center Is A Good Place To Start - Microsoft Embraces Open-Source Xen To Run Open-Source Linux - Personal Tech: From Flying Mice To Bluetooth, Here's How To Cut The Cord - ERP Gets A Complete Makeover - 6 Steps To Protect Your Wireless Network - YouTube Growth Continues To Soar 4. Grab Bag - For Women Consultants, Business Is Booming (Inc.com) - Kazaa, Skype, And Now 'The Venice Project' (BusinessWeek) - In The Race With Google, It's Consistency Vs. 'Wow' (NY Times - reg. required) - Washers And Dryers Air Messages To PCs, TVs, Phones (USA Today) 5. In Depth: Chips - AMD Takes Graphics Chipset Plunge With ATI Acquisition - Intel Core 2 Duo Launch Set For Thursday - HP's Memory Spot Chip Brings The Bits-To-Atoms Connection Closer - Weak Microprocessor Market Dampens Earnings Picture - Intel Overhauls Chip Lineup, Shuffles Executive Ranks - Chartered Execs Remain Hopeful, Stick To '07 Financial Plan - TI To Meet Q2 Forecast, Says Analyst - New Approach Could Lead To Self-Powered Silicon Laser Chip 6. Voice Of Authority - Did Intel's New Processors Fuel AMD's ATI Acquisition? 7. White Papers - Top 10 Insights For Backup Consolidation 8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek 9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription
Quotes Of The Day: "Without metaphor the handling of general concepts such as culture and civilization becomes impossible." — Johan Huizinga
"A good metaphor is something even the police should keep an eye on." — G.C. Lichtenberg
1. Editor's Note: Net Neutrality: The Frenzied Search For The Perfect Metaphor
Net neutrality. What a terrible name for such an important issue.
As Arianna Huffington pointed out in her blog, using the net neutrality phrase to describe the now-dormant bill of the same name was "dead legislation walking" because it failed to convey any valuable information, much less evoke an "instant and passionate gut reaction."
Which is probably why so many people have been reaching (and over-reaching) for metaphors to describe exactly what net neutrality means.
Good metaphors pack an enormous emotional punch. They convince and persuade. Small wonder that both sides of the net neutrality issue are struggling to define their positions through metaphor—with varying degrees of success.
Let's start with some negative examples. There's Senator Ted Stevens' (R-Alaska) famously (or infamously) uninformed mixed metaphor when he said—and I quote—"[The Internet] is not a big truck. It's...it's a series of tubes." Even Jon Stewart of The Daily Showcouldn't resist that one.
By far the most common metaphor used by both sides compares the Internet to a highway (or superhighway). Those for net neutrality call the telcos' plans for imposing premium access surcharges the equivalent of putting up toll booths that would hinder the free flow of information. The telcos use the same metaphor to argue that they aren't negatively impacting the current infrastructure—in fact, they're adding more, faster lanes.
In one of the more widely disseminated metaphors in the blogosphere, Art Brodsky says what the telcos are trying to do is "boil the frog." The metaphor goes like this: If you throw a frog into boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put a frog in warm water and gradually raise the temperature, it will slowly become used to it until it's completely cooked. If no net neutrality bill is passed, Brodsky argues, consumers will be gradually cooked through the deviously incremental eradication of everything we currently take for granted about the Internet.
Think these metaphors are just attempts to be witty? Think again. Who controls the metaphor defines the argument—and goes a long way to winning the debate. Indeed, so important is metaphor in this discussion that commentators are ceasing to argue about the issues as much as to argue about the comparisons being used.
A case in point: The Washington Postdevoted a highly placed article to lambasting the cable vs. broadcast television metaphor. And Om Malik, in his blog, argued that people are too "married" to the metaphor of the Internet as a public space—and that clinging to that metaphor clouds their vision of what is economically feasible.
The clash of metaphors goes on and on. Make sure to check out James Surowiecki's well-argued piece in The New Yorker's Talk of the Town, in which he rejects the superhighway metaphor in favor of one that compares what the telcos are hoping to do to the practice by supermarkets and bookstores of charging fees for better placement of products. His pessimistic view of how it will all turn out is also expressed metaphorically: He believes the Internet ultimately won't resemble a superhighway as much as a "collection of Safeways."
What do you think? Do you have a metaphor of your own to describe net neutrality? Submit it by responding to my blog.
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4. Grab Bag
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7. White Papers
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