Advocate for Net Neutrality

I tend to be a fan of the internet, and I am sure I am not alone. While the internet may have much unwholesome or offensive content, it is where many people find their news, gather recipes, post pictures of cats, and watch videos of teenage boys shooting fire works at each other. What’s not to love?

The world wide web is an expanse of information, entertainment, and innovation. It is here that many find outlets for their passions in the form of blogs, visual art, and crafts on sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt, and Etsy. It’s where aspiring musicians share their talent and seek exposure on platforms such as SoundCloud. And it is where many have sought to find financial support for their passion projects, or even physical needs, through crowd funding.

It stands as the only space where any individual can carve out his or her own niche. The beauty of the internet is that it is largely not owned by anyone. It is predominantly an unrestricted space for the exchange and sharing of ideas, art, information, and knowledge. Sure there is garbage and false information, but it is our responsibility as individuals to sift through that mess ourselves.  The internet is a near infinite resource!

In 2014, Kester Brewin re-released his book Mutiny!– Why We Love Pirates and How They Can Save Us for free online here. Originally published in 2012, Brewin made this work accessible online, no charge, in the interest of “enriching the commons.” His decision to release it into the public domain was to be in keeping with the premise of his book. The book covers the social and economic history surrounding piracy, the intent and development of copyright law, and the implications of sailing under the mark of a dead man. While I encourage you to take the time to read all seven chapters, it is Brewin’s discussion of the internet that spurred me on to tracking down Mutiny! this week. Brewin describes the internet as being the new “commons,” a space for the free exchange and cross-pollination of ideas and innovation. Brewin’s discussion mostly concerns Facebook and Google’s selling or sharing of their users’ personal information, and the development of algorithms that cater ads to one’s surmised personal interests. But today, I believe the greatest threat to the commons internet is not Google and Zuckerberg.

This Thursday May 18, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission will vote to move forward with rolling back net neutrality. The proposal comes to floor on behalf of chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai (who previously worked for Verizon). For those of you who are not aware, I’ll let John Oliver explain it best (warning: obscenities do ensue).

In brief, should the FCC remove the Title II classification from ISPs (Internet Service Providers), ISPs would be able to adjust internet speeds based on what you, the consumer use the internet for. For example, if you prefer to stream your favorite shows through Netflix rather than Hulu, and your ISP is Comcast, you may find that Netlix drags and doesn’t load at a viewable speed, while Hulu is lightening fast. Why would this be? Because Hulu is owned by NBC which is owned by Comcast. Your ISP would be able to inhibit you from surfing the web outside of what benefits that ISP. Similarly, if you’re a gamer, an ISP could slow your internet connection and then charge you more so you can play World of Warcraft.

“Dan, isn’t being concerned with your internet speed kind of a first-world gripe?” Fair enough. And my examples certainly pertain to leisure and luxury. But should ISPs no longer fall under Title II, what is to stop ISPs from charging outlandish prices to low income neighborhoods or regions, effectively stifling access to information and knowledge in those areas? Those in economically depressed areas such as rural Appalachia or inner city Philadelphia could be hindered from resources they’d otherwise have access to. ISPs would have to the power to prevent networks and online communities from developing. Imagine if Verizon effectively killed social networks and online communities like Facebook and Reddit because they refused to be bought out by the ISP.

I can’t say this enough. We should be wary of any thing that potentially prohibits the general populace from accessing information. Watch for those policies that would preserve ignorance among certain demographics.

It has been argued by those in favor of these rollbacks that the removal of Title II classification would stimulation competition among ISPs in the “free market” fashion. In light of this, I have an experiment for you:  Call an ISP that is other than the one you currently have and ask for quotes to service you area. Give them your address and what not. I suspect you will find that this other ISP does not service your address. Why? Because often times, regions and neighborhoods only have one or two ISPs. Verizon and Comcast rarely service the same city block. Where is the alleged “free market” when where you chose to live effectively selects your ISP and that ISP has no reason to offer competitive rates?

If you use the internet, and here you are reading my online blog, you should research net neutrality. I’ve added some links to help you all out.

 

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Anime and the Biblical Narrative

I’ve been on anime kick lately. I tore through Durarara!!!, and ate up One Punch Man. Check them out. I stepped back from the medium several years ago but now I’m back in it. I’m not sure if anime had a dry spell or if only the lamest shows (except Gurren Lagann!) were imported from Japan after 2010. But now… it’s like I’m experiencing an anime renaissance. It’s pretty rad.

I was sucked into anime fandom at the ripe age of 6. Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon aired at 6am on Saturdays before the western cartoons such as Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series came on. I woke up that early just to cram CocoPuffs into my mouth while Goku learned to kamehameha and ride a flying nimbus. It was captivating. The art style blew my mind. And 6 years old, I learned that these shows were telling a long story that dictate I had see previous episodes to know what the heck was going on.

This stood in stark contrast to the western shows I was watching on Saturday mornings, or the shows I noticed my parents were watching. Those were all episodic stories. The narratives only lasted for the length of 24 minutes. Next time you’re perusing some of your old favorite late 80’s or early 90’s television, see how many stories carry from episode to episode. While shows like Friends or Cheers may have had larger seasonal arcs that culminated in 2-part season finales, the meat of these season were still composed of a series of plots that changed from episode to episode.

I’d argue that it wasn’t until J.J. Abrams brought us Lost in 2004 that mainstream network television began airing shows that required viewers to be invested in a season/series long narrative. Sure, the “will they/won’t they” Ross and Rachel plot beats of Friends kept many a fan intrigued and guessing. But if a casual viewer first watched an episode in season 4 rather than season 1, that viewer could still enjoy that particular episode’s plot even if he or she didn’t pick up on the subtler details of that season (Chanler and Monica are dating in secret, etc). Drop a viewer into the second season of Lost, and later Breaking Bad or 24, and he or she would only have the slightest inkling of what was occurring on screen.

Anime was ahead of the game when it came to this long-form story telling. And I soaked it up. The worlds were so large and the plots so thick with tension from week to week.

My interest in anime, and Japanese culture in general, continued well into high school. For over a decade, long-form narratives were what captivated me. Japanese RPGs offered a similar narrative structure.

Did you know the Bible contains a long-form narrative? I didn’t know this until I was in an Old Testament Survey class in college. Up until the age of 19, Scripture had never been taught to me as a whole. Rather, sermons and Sunday school lessons were like sitcoms: each week a different biblical episode. I could gather some distinguishing features (Jesus was in the New Testament, the kings and Moses were in the Hebrew Scripture). Yet most passages were presented as individual stories and they were almost never connected to the broader narrative at play from Genesis to Revelation.

Imagine my joy to sit in a college class and find that what I loved about anime was not only present in Scripture, but integral in understanding the weight and glory of God’s redemptive work in history.

Boom. Mind. Blown.

All of a sudden, the Bible turned into an epic; it became God’s epic. To truly understand Jesus, I had to understand the Old Testament. To understand anything the prophets said, I needed to understand Moses and the Levitic Law. If I really wanted to grasp half of what was at play in the four gospels, I needed to know what occurred in in those obscure (to a Protestant) books known as the Apocrypha and learn about this thing called the Second Temple period.

To this nerd, Scripture became alive! It was like a coming into Game of Thrones at the Red Wedding and realizing I had three seasons to go back and watch. Confused. Captivated. Thirsty for the rest.

Now most major networks having primetime shows that are season/series long narratives. Over the past decade or so, the west has really grown to love an complex and intricate epic tale.

And yet sermons that seek to tell the grand narrative of Scripture, in my experience, seem to be the minority, Stories of the Israelites, of Jesus, and of the Apostles are preached as if they occurred in some vacuum apart from Scripture as a whole. They often lacked any context or “Last week… in the Gospel of Mark”-style prologue.

Leave it to a National Geographic television mini-series, The Bible, to give many church folk their first real taste for the broad narrative of the biblical text.

When Scripture is portrayed as largely episodic, then many of these stories became more like fables preached from the pulpit. They become cautionary tales with a moral lesson, rather than a witness to God’s redemptive work in thousands of year of history.

So if any of my pastor friends want some anime suggestions, direct message me on Twitter or comment below. Or just watch Breaking Bad for one of the best long-form narratives in television history.

 

 

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