The Shift from Generative to Tethered Appliances – are we ‘killing’ the Internet?

This week in BCM310 we looked at the ‘feudalisation’ of the Internet and how the rise of tethered appliances and censorship has led to the centralised control of networks – a direct threat to an open Internet.

Zittrain (2008) discusses the impact of tethered technologies on our digital freedom, defining them as those appliances that are centrally controlled. Information is ‘tethered’ between the appliance and the vendor and devices are unable to be changed by the end-user.  This is a direct contrast to our traditional understanding of technologies such as the PC as being ‘generative’ technologies, defined by their ‘openness to outside innovation’ (Zittrain 2008, pg 101) which allows for user-driven change.

Consumers have been shifting from generative to tethered technologies because of perceived security issues, including third-party codes (Zittrain 2008). We, as consumers, have flocked to these tethered appliances because we see them as being more secure. However, tethered appliances have their own security issues relating to regulatory intervention and the amount of information that vendors can collect through the information provided by users (Zittrich 2008).

I believe that the control that is being held by companies such as Apple and Facebook is concerning. Any threat to an open Internet is also a threat to innovation and therefore the future of our societal and technological development. An article in the Guardian (1 May 2008) suggests that devices such as the Apple iPhone are ‘killing the internet’ as they do not allow for user tweaking and modification which may actually improve the functioning of the device. They are, in fact, stifling the innovative behaviours that allowed their creation in the first place.

In conclusion, tethered devices are enabling censorship which threatens an open internet. Additionally, through denying user modification, they are suppressing the innovation which has been the reason for our technological advancement to date.

Ultimately, I agree with Zittrain: – we are ‘fleeing from freedom when the real solution lies in even more freedom’ (Burkeman 2008).

Do you agree?

Thanks for reading,



Zittrain, J 2008, ‘Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’. In The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, ppp.101-126

Burkeman, O 2008, ‘Are gadgets killing the internet?’, The Guardian, 1 May, accessed 1/5/2013 via

Image sourced from here.

Week 10 Blog: Cease and Desist! Property and Propriety©

Early intellectual property issues perhaps?

This week’s article by Coombe and Herman (2001) discuss intellectual property and corporate propriety on the Internet.  Corporations are finding it increasingly difficult to monitor and protect their brand image due to the fact that the Web provides the ‘technological means and social and cultural conditions’ for the public to ‘evade their subject positions as mere consumers of corporate imagery’ (Coombe & Herman 2001, pg 920).

A major point of the article is the ‘intertwined relationship between property and propriety’ (pg 923). The article references Steve Jones (1993, cited by Coombe & Herman 2001) who identifies that the word ‘property’ means ‘one’s own’, referring to ownership, whereas propriety refers to a behavioural standard. He suggests that intellectual property links the two concepts.

Various examples are provided in the article (Coombe & Herman 2001) of companies attempting to protect their intellectual property. Coca-Cola issued a cease-and-desist letter to a website displaying collections of vintage Coca-Cola bottles and cans. Warner Bros did the same to owners of Harry Potter fan sites. In additions, numerous companies have attempted to shutdown websites which provide ‘cultural commentary and artistic appropriation’ of their brand (, cited by Coombe & Herman 2001, pg 933).

I can understand why a company would want to shut down a defamatory website which is spreading false information. However, I think it is counterproductive for massive corporations to shut down fan sites, collector’s sites, and any other sites which do not defame or attempt to profit from the brand. I believe companies should be trying to cultivate and promote these online communities as they reflect positively on the brand and provide further brand exposure at no expense. In my opinion, the censorship of these websites can be seen as a failure to allow freedom of speech.

– Katie Challita 3663620


Coombe, R & Herman, A 2001, ‘Culture Wars on the Net: Intellectual Property and Corporate Propriety in Digital Environments,’ The South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 100 issue 4, pp.919-947

Image sourced from