Tag Archives: geographies of the sea

Pirates of the Web or the Waves: A Conundrum of Governance

by Jen Turner

At the end of October, The Finnish Supreme Court rejected a case from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) fighting an enforced ban of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay.  The BBC reported that the ruling signaled the end of a long court battle between ISP Elisa and copyright bodies in the country.  The Pirate Bay, which offers links to pirated content, has caused controversy in other areas too.  The website is now also banned in the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy.

However, internet rights groups say the bans represent a worrying rise in levels of net censorship – a concern which is shaped by changes in the management of the World Wide Web. Control of the internet and its logistical arrangements stems from agreements made under the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialist UN agency that dates back to 1865.  Now, the ITU is suggesting new proposals which would mean internet companies like Google paying generous fees to local telecoms companies.  These plans would disrupt the balance between the US internet giants and telecom firms across the world.  Administration and organisation of the internet has been dominated by the US since Arpanet, the precursor to the modern internet, was established between four US universities in 1969, and a handful of US-controlled authorities followed.

Google has battled hard in campaigns surrounding the open web and the media-genic issues of free speech and-anti censorship that other ITU proposals allude to. However, as Jemima Kiss reports, for a company worth £150bn, taxes to telecom firms would be payable on every interaction with its 700 million or so daily users.    Perhaps this challenge to Western dominance is an important one, raising issues about how these seemingly placeless entities are controlled.

In similar vein, Kimberley Peters’ recent article in Area explores governance outside of territorial boundaries in political discussion of the geographies of the sea.  Using the example of offshore broadcasting stations such as Radio Caroline, Peters explains the ramifications that ‘pirate’ stations had on the governance of sea-space.  By explaining actions carried out within Britain’s borders, and the international space of the ‘high seas’, this paper recognises how this response challenged Britain’s long-held ideology of maritime freedom.

If we consider both the web and the waves in light of their non-territorial character, we can find similarities in the challenges for regulating them – acknowledging the conundrum for governing these kinds of spaces.

Kimberley Peters, 2011, Sinking the radio ‘pirates’: exploring British strategies of governance in the North Sea, 1964–1991Area 43 281-287

Jemima Kiss, Who controls the internet?The Guardian, 17 October 2012 

Pirate Bay appeal is rejected by Finnish supreme court, BBC News Technology, 30 October 2012

Aesthetic, Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea

By Kate Botterill

‘The ocean is imbued with mystery’ says Jason de Caries Taylor, Artistic Director of the new Cancun National Marine Park whose new exhibition is a collection of ‘underwater sculptures’ submerged 10 metres under the sea. The sculptures explore the relationship between art and the environment and between human creation and the sea through their submerged position and interaction with the natural environment. Through the creation of artificial reefs and the use of sculpted materials that encourage the colonisation of marine life, de Caries Taylor’s work is concerned with transformative life worlds whereby ‘the figures are transformed over time by their environment, and conversely as this happens so they change the shape of their habitat’. The ecological and geographical message of interconnectedness, transformation and regeneration is central to developing understanding of our relationship with the ocean and contributes to what Lambert refers to as ‘imaginative, aesthetic and sensuous geographies of the sea’ (cited in Peters,2010).

Recent work in social and cultural geography has revived interest in the geographies of the sea. In an article for Geography Compass, Kimberley Peters reviews the current work and future prospects of this line of enquiry arguing against ‘land locked’ studies in geography that view the sea as marginal to the land. The sea, she argues is a vital space with rich social and cultural meaning and implicit to everyday life – “even though oceans and vessels may seem disconnected to everyday life, or appear as slow and irrelevant methods of moving, they remain fundamental to the flow of trade, to the reaping of resources (fish stocks, natural gas and oil) and as sites of terror and for the undercover movement of peoples. They are fundamental therefore for geographers to examine in a contemporary light”. Peters traces literatures of the sea from historical approaches, the exploration of maritime spaces and practices to ‘mobilities’ research and tourism geographies. She ends by making a case for an examination of ‘underwater’ geographies and the sea as a ‘site of recreation’, both of which are central to de Caries Taylor’s evolving exhibition.

 See pictures and a video of Jason de Caries Taylor’s underwater exhibition

 Read Peters (2010) Future Promises for Contemporary Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea in Geography Compass