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Saved by the 'Net

Entry 629, on 2007-10-23 at 22:09:15 (Rating 2, Computers)

Its rather trite to say that the Internet has been a revolution and an incredibly important part of life in the modern western world, but I want to reiterate the point and maybe put a slightly different spin on the idea. I think the most important attribute of the Internet is its equality. Everyone can now contribute in various ways, especially since the spread of Web 2.0 type interactive sites.

So what do we get from the Internet which was impossible or difficult before? Well there's information for a start. With sites like Wikipedia its possible to find information instantly which might take hours or days to find in a library. I know that its necessary to be careful separating accurate information from biased, inaccurate information, but considering the option in the past would normally be not having access at all that's a small price to pay.

Secondly we get communications. I have a folder on my computer labelled "letters". It contains letters I have written, organised by year, going back many years. About 5 years ago the folder was empty. And subsequent folders have been empty ever since, because I just don't write letters any more. But I do send more emails in a week than letters I sent in a year, so I actually communicate a lot more.

Thirdly we get expression. Everyone has opinions which they want other people to hear and blogs provide a great way to let that happen. The fact that you are reading this now shows this works. Photo and video sharing sites allow sharing creativity in the form of photography and movies. And plain old web sites bring all the elements together.

The key factor is that anyone can do this. Again, its important to be careful how much credence is placed on some information sources, especially blogs, but it seems that more real news is coming from these sources every day. And the biases of the big media companies are completely bypassed. Blogs, podcasts, and other sources are a way to get unbiased news because its quick and easy to get multiple opinions on the same subject. With conventional news the information is presented form just one angle.

A more subtle consequence of the Internet is that hierarchies can be broken down. People can buy and sell stuff without having to rely on a big retailer. They can communicate without being ripped off by telecommunications companies. They can enjoy music and video without having to buy from the big media companies. Maybe the Internet will save us from the corporatisation phase the western world is currently in. I certainly hope so, because in my opinion corporations currently have far too much control.

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