My case study focuses on generative systems, how they evolve, expand, populate the masses, and then become weakened from the very elements that make them successful.
I use the personal computer as my media object as it is a generative system which is adaptable to a great number of functions, all at the user's whim. Compared to an Information Appliance such as the typewriter or the old IBM Mainframe, designed for specific functions, not easily modified, and serviced by the vendor exclusively, the personal computer is designed with a low common denominator, making it easy to configure according to what the owner needs or wants it to do.
The Internet is also a generative system in it's current interaction with personal computers. Collaboration, innovation, ability to adapt to changing conditions are among the many advantages of the generative Web. In fact the Internet was created around the concept of letting it become what it will. The framers decisively held firm to the "procrastination principle", and didn't worry about what problems might occur, rather leaving such issues to the "end-points" to solve as the problems arose. This is what created the Internet as we know it today; a flourishing network of innovation, collaboration, communication, ideas, participation, and so on...
Unfortunately, Zittrain also talks about, (in Derrida style) the very things that make a generative system strong are also it's greatest danger. The dangers come from the exploitation of the network by amateurs and abusers. For example, amateurs unknowingly release harmful code. Contrarily, abusers very knowingly release harmful code. Either way, harmful code circulates the network waves infecting anything and everything it comes into contact with, and in an exponential fashion. So the freedoms that the Internet allows for honest people, also pathes the way for the bad guys.
In reaction and fear to this type of activity, the minds of regulatory personnel start spinning and debating solutions. Instead of applying the "procrastination principle" they will indeed be figuring out ways to stop online hackery and the threat of technological terrorism. So, in a worse case scenario the logical solution would be to disallow interaction with the Internet, relieving the threat that lies within.
I use the scenario of a "Read-Only Internet" as an extreme. There are many, many areas to explore in this discussion. One of them being freedom. Even that in itself opens many avenues of discussion.
However, if regulation deemed the Internet as "Read-Only" how would that effect us? For starters, our personal computers would become mere informational appliances. We could still create and innovate, but it would be more on a personal level. We could only use the Internet for research purposes. We would have no way of collaborating on projects or ideas with people around the world, or for that matter people in our own back yard.
I use extremes to make a point as well as hopefully creating a jumping off point for discussion. I truly, truly hope the Internet will never be "Read-Only" and honestly, I don't think it will ever be, at least in the U.S. My hope in my presentation is to get people thinking about how we as a participatory culture can prevent this from happening on a large scale.