It is clear that one of the positive aspects of the internet is how easily accessible and the vast source of information is stored on the web (Turkle, 2011). To look previously how information was captivated before the birth of the internet, we can look to Vannevar Bush’s Memex, which was an invention to access stored information with speed, which holds similar traits to the internet.
More recently, Stewart Brand published the Whole Earth Catalog in 1968, which consisted of information and products for sale. Founding father of Apple, Steve Jobs compared the Whole Earth Catalog’s vast amount of knowledge to Google, claiming that “It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.”
Stewart Brand on his creation
The evolution of the internet can be described as “a history of ideas and how things are developed” (Cailliau et al. 2000:309). Although Tim Bernes Lee envisioned the World Wide Web to be used as a communication tool rather than the passive medium it is today; where it is so crowded with information it is hard to distinguish what is valuable. (Wise et. al. 1999).
With the World Wide Web becoming more readily available as “household names” (Cailliau et al. 2000:306). This act of decentralisation and empowerment allows for everyone’s opinion to be heard; no matter on the subculture nature of the views (Zickmund, 2000). This entails for anyone to participate in online communities despite not holding much technical know how (Postigo, 2012). Even more so, with the ability to access a wide source of information with ease, it perhaps strengthens McLuhan’s notion of the Global Village, whereby we are all connected through this medium (1989).
Wise discusses the development of network media and pays particular attention to radical hackers who “became entrepreneurs, and the market developed, established capitalist media corporations were drawn in” (1999:43). The decentralisation of power and allowing more information to be free echoes hacker’s ethos that there should be a “freedom of information” (Taylor, 1999:93).
However, with everyone able to voice their opinions there maybe some drawbacks. Postman informs us that within technology it usually mimics our culture (1987). This is seen in Morovos’s analysis of the internet in that “the regular folk don’t read sites like Global Voices (…); instead they are much more likely to use the internet to rediscover their own culture – and, dare I say it, their own bigotry” (2011:247). Similarly, Keen airs his concerns, believing that the emergence of Web 2.0 has just expanded narcissism and confused knowledge with unreliable user generated content (2007).
To highlight Morovo’s and Keen’s point, it may be worthwhile to highlight the Daily Mail Comments Section, whereby it has gained attention for the comments from the public to be extremely discriminative and narrow-minded; even now having their own Twitter account whereby the moderator tweets “A selection of the bizarre and terrifying comments found in the Daily Mail comment section.” Youtube comments can also be viewed as racist, as Madden et. al. reviews the comments that could be found on Youtube videos (2013). Similarly Zickmund delves into subcultures online, whereby White Supremacists are able to congregate online and abuse message boards (2000).
Noted hacker, Richard Stallman recently declared that particular social networking sites were ethically immoral for using data that will be used incorrectly. Claiming that “We are not Facebook users, but Facebook Used.” Contradicting the hacker’s ethos in that the diversity of opinions is what could be powerful with Web 2.0 sites, and that perhaps not everyone who is able to express their opinion, should.
However, it may not be how Web 2.o is watering down our culture (Keen, 2007) but how our culture is not using the internet productively and realizing that, Sturgeon’s Law (ninety percent of everything is crap) also applies to the internet. Rather than questioning how much information the internet can hold, perhaps we should question how valuable the information is presented to us, and how it can enrich us.
Boran, Marie. (2013). Public not Facebook users but ‘Facebook used’. Available: http://www.irishtimes.com/business/sectors/technology/public-not-facebook-users-but-facebook-used-stallman-1.1579637. Last accessed 11 Dec 2013.
Cailliau, Robert et Gillies, James (2000). How the Web was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web. USA: Oxford University Press.
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Keen, A (2007). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. London: Currency
Madden, Amy et Ruthven, Ian et McMenemy, David. (2013). A classification scheme for content analyses of YouTube video comments. Journal of Documentation. 69 (5), p693-714.
Morozov, Evgeny (2011). The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World. London: Penguin Group.
McLuhan, Marshall et Powers, Bruce (1989). The global village : transformations in world life and media in the 21st century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Postigo, Hector (2012). The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright (The Information Society Series). USA: The MIT Press.
Stanford News. (2005). ‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says. Available: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html. Last accessed 11 Dec 2013.
Taylor, Paul (1999). Hackers : crime and the digital sublime. London: Routledge.
Turkle, Sherry (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. New York: Basic Books.
Wise, Richard et Steemers, Jeanette (1999). Multimedia : a critical introduction. London: Routledge.
Zickmund, Susan. (2000). Approaching the Radical Other: The Discursive Culture of Cyberhate. In: Bell, David et Kennedy Barbara. The Cybercultures Reader. London: Routledge. 237-254.