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.

The Internet of Things

This will be my last ever post for DIGC202! 🙁

During this final week of class, we have been looking at the notion of the ‘Internet of Things’.

This is the idea that all physical objects can be linked to the Internet, thereby ‘transforming it [the Internet] from being a mostly intangible collection of data to encompass ‘things’ that people can touch’ (McDonald 2012).  Physical objects connected to the Internet (through RFID tags, barcodes etc) are thereby able to communicate with each other.

This is an amazing notion which means that everyday objects can become active participants which are ‘contributing to networks of social exchange and discourse, and rearranging the rules of occupancy and patterns of mobility within the physical world’ (Bleecker 2006, pg 2).

I find this notion both exciting and scary.

We are already a networked society, however the ‘Internet of Things’ signifies the introduction of real-world objects to this network. The Internet is already pervasive, yet our future will be filled with networked objects and the world will essentially be running online.

The video we watched in the lecture demonstrated a life where communication between people and objects is commonplace; the fireplace knows when you are due to arrive home and starts warming up, or the stove turns off when it discovers you are ordering takeaway.  These smart objects are intuitive and adaptable. It reminds me of something from a sci-fi movie which you wish could be real-life, but never thought possible.

The ‘Internet of Things’, however, means that this is completely possible.

So what are we waiting for? An article by Rowinski (2012) notes that we already have most of the technology that we need to make the ‘Internet of Things’ a reality, however the technology needs to be refined and made ubiquitous. This connected society would need collaboration between telecommunications companies, product producers and software developers. There are also numerous privacy and security issues that need to be addressed.

I think the potential impact of the ‘Internet of Things’ is amazing, especially in areas such as healthcare and the environment. So whilst I think the concept is a bit creepy and seems to humanise inanimate objects, I must admit I am eager to see how the ‘Internet of Things’ develops in the future.

That’s it from me! I’ve really enjoyed this semester of DIGC202 🙂

Thanks for reading.



  • Bleecker, J 2006, ‘Why Things Matter: A Manifesto for networked objects’, accessed 25/10/2012 via here.
  • McDonald, S 2012, ‘How the Internet of Things could change Australian homes and businesses’, Techworld Australia, 15 August, accessed 25/10/2012 via here.
  • Rowinski, D 2012, ‘Futurist’s Cheat Sheet: Internet of Things’, readwrite, August 31, accessed 25/10/2012 via here.
  • Imaged sourced from here.