Five Futures for the internet.
“this is very important when concluding your essay mention these five points to achieve a top level 4”
one view is the net is overblown. It is just a tool to do what wev’e always done but it allows us to do it more quickly and to reach a larger audience. ebay is just a flea market and an auction site, nothing new there but with the scale and the speed of the internet applied to them. Amazon is just a different way to get goods delivered to your door. Bill gates once took this position dismissing the internet as a side show. In the backlash against the internet which followed the dotcom boom in the 90’s many adopted a similar stance. At the time some academic suggested the web would be a bit like cb radio a back channel for rough and ready amateur communication.
This view is partly true, of course. The net is a tool that allows us to do things we already do but in a different way, my kids watch television but on youtube. yet the web is more than just a tool, it allows people to do so much more than simply watch but sell and click. Microsoft has since changed its stance. In 2008 it announced a new web based strategy that would allow ‘cloud’ computing with computer users accessing many shared programmes running externally in a cloud on the web, email, calendars shared documents running externally rather than installing the software on their own computers.
A second view is that the internet might well have a big impact on society but it will take alot longer to work through than the super optimists argue. Technical change usually does. The big productivity gains from technological innovation come when the technology itself becomes so dull that it is integrated seamlessly into daily life. Think of the way we effortlessly flick on a kettle or turn the key in a cars ignition. Successful technologies are used without a second thought. The web has become more accessible reliable and user friendly but it is still some way off from becoming second nature for most people. A prime exponent of this sceptical view is David Edgerton, a historian of technology. In his book The Shock of the Old Edgerton argues that technical change is rarely revolutionary; older technologies; water wheels horse drawn carriages radios take a lot longer to fade away. This view might offer some comfort to people who are worried about the web; we might have more time to get used to the web than we initially thought. The changes it brings might be evolutionary rather than disruptive. Yet if Edgerton is to be believed it would also mean that the changes we have seen in just the first decade of the mass adoption of the web- the complete upheaval in the music recording industry, the savage decline in US newspapers, the disappearences of many youth magazines, the quick creation of new media giants like google- these might just be the tip of an iceberg. We have another fifty years of this kind to come and the scale of the upheavals may be even greater as the technology becomes widly adopted and gains momentum.
A third view is held by a small but vociferous (very outspoken) group are people who say the web is already having a big impact on society and it is mainly bad for us. The chief proponents of this view are the polemicist (a writer who argues in opposition to others) Andrew Keen in his book The cult of the Amateur, Nicholas Carr in his thoughtful The Big Switch, Larry Sanger one of the co creators of Wikipedia, and the brain scientist Susan Greenfield.
These critics worry the web is uprooting the authority of experts, professionals, and institutions which help us to sort truth from falsehood, knowledge from supposition, fact from gossip. Instead the web is licensing a cacophonous mass in which it is increasingly difficult to discern the truth as experts themselves are drowned out by low grade amateurs. This scepticism is echoed by many professions who feel threatened by the web; Teachers,academics and librarians among them.
A related worry, articulated by Nicholas Carr and Susan Greenfield, is that our dependence on the web and computers is eroding our ability for independent thought. Google is making us stupid!! is Carr’s catchphrase. We accept the answers the search engines supply without really analysing what they mean or where they came from. Screens make our thinking dependent on stimulation, according to Greenfield. We are no longer self starting, critical thinkers. Greenfield also worries that the web is relentlessly eroding our sense of privacy as young people live out their lives in public, online, unable to form and protect a stable sense of identity.
My view is that much of this is alarmism, arising from a rosily nostalgic view of what the old world was like. It also under estimates peoples capacity to self organise, to sort fact from fiction, the useful from the fraudulent. The web provides more opportunities for participation, critical thinking and search than say sitting in front of the TV or simply copying down facts from the blackboard. Far from losing a sense of identity younger generations growing up with the web seem both more individualistic and more collaborative than their elders. That is not to say that these critics do not raise important points, but they are qualifiers, not the main story.
The Fourth group argue the net will be mainly good for us. The members of this group however differ over why and how the net will will be useful for society. The libertarian (a person who advocates civil liberty.) free market wing believe the internet is creating more diversity and choice, resulting in faster, frictionless markets and an abundance of free culture. Chris Anderson, the editor of wired and author of Long Tail is the cheerleader for this camp.
The communitarian optimists take a contrary view. They see in the internet the possibilty of community and collaboration, common based, peer to peer production, which will establish non-market and non-hierarchical organisation. It is not opening a new stage of capitalism and the market but laying seeds for alternatives to both.
People want meaningful opportunities to participate and contribute to add their piece of information, view or opinion . They want viable ways to share to think and work laterally with their peers. They are searching for collaborative ways to get things done. When these three come together participate, share collaborate they create new ways to organise ourselves that are more transparent, cheaper and less top down, structured free association.
The Fifth view is by a small group who argue the net has been largely good so far and has huge potential but it may turn bad. As the internet grows it producers more of its own pollution, spam, malware, surveillance, invasions of privacy, trivia. The danger is that if there is too much chaos and abuse then the net will get clogged up and eventually people will turn back to corporations or governments to sort it out. In this sense the internet is its own worst nightmare. As it stands the web is a vast space governed by extraordinarily loose, ramshackle forms of self governance. If we mess this up then the ensuing chaos will feed an appetite for more traditional and reliable forms of control.
The task is to save the internet from its own self-destructive tendencies. The chief exponent of this view is Jonathan Zittrain in his book The future of the internet and how to stop it. Zittrains point is that we are just at the beginnings of the web and this early experimental period may be no more than a passing moment. Even in its short life the internet has already had several incarnations, such as the information superhighway , amid the buzz of Web 2.0 few people talk about e-commerce. Many are already starting to talk about the cloud as a new paradigm (a typical example or pattern of something;) The internet is ever changing and developing.