FAI: Freedom and Authority on the Internet

Official Blurb

I will admit that I wrote this blurb before I worked out all of the details of the course, or even the general approach I wanted to take to these ideas. Nonetheless, it reflects my general perspective on what I hope we will accomplish in this Tutorial.

Freedom and Authority on the Internet: Conflict, Community, and Control

Since its advent in the 1960s as a way to share data and computing power, the Internet has also enabled people to communicate and build communities, using techniques as simple as email and as complex as real-time avatar-based virtual environments. As people communicate, they often come into conflict because they have different values; what is acceptable to one person may be completely unacceptable to another. In this tutorial, we will explore some of these conflicts and the wide range of approaches to resolving them. These approaches range from a choice to make freedom absolute through community processes that rely on consensus to more authoritarian techniques that attempt to limit and control behavior. While we will focus primarily on how people have adapted traditional conflict resolution techniques (e.g., consensus, policy, law, force) to the Internet, we will also consider the ways in which technologies are used to resolve issues and explore the hidden and explicit models of community and conflict resolution these technologies represent.

Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Copyright © 2007 Samuel A. Rebelsky. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu