Technology design and power: Freedom and control in communication networks | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1740-8296
  • E-ISSN: 2040-0918



The design of technologies with particular sets of affordances for user action reflects and embeds particular sociopolitical values in the technological artefacts themselves. In relation to networked communication technologies like the Internet, design values of openness and decentralization accord with the hegemonic value of freedom as an inherently positive social and political concept. Yet freedom is also an elastic concept that contains the possibility for the freedom of powerful interests to exert controls – technological, state and legal – over the very networks designed to facilitate freedom. This article reviews how such controls are made manifest, with a particular focus on the role of technology design, in the areas of surveillance, censorship and intellectual property. It then concludes by addressing how such controls might be resisted using the affordances of open and decentralized networks. The interplay between freedom and control in communication networks is crucial for the construction of contemporary modes of citizenship, publics and participation.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): citizenship; control; design; freedom; networks; resistance; technology
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