An interesting thing happened to us on the way to the future. The internet went from being something unique to being a dull utility, much like mains electricity or running water and we didn’t even notice. We ended up becoming totally dependent on a system in which we’re obsessed. Are you thinking I’m exaggerating on dependence? Well, just ask Estonia, one of the most connected nations in the world and was basically shut down for two weeks by an ongoing attack on its network infrastructure. Or imagine what it would be like if, one day, suddenly you found yourself unable to book flights, transfer money from your bank account, check bus schedules, send email, search Google or call your family via Skype and purchase music from Apple or books from Amazon Buy or sell stuff on eBay and then watch clips online on YouTube or BBC programs on the iPlayer and do many other things that have become just as natural as breathing.
The internet has slowly enshrined itself into our lives, but we seem to be remarkably unreflective about it. That’s not because we’re short of data about the web however, we’re awash with the things. It’s just that we do not know what it all means. We’re in the same state as described by the legendary cyberspace expert, Manuel Castells, as “informed bewilderment”.
Mainstream media don’t exactly help with this, since a large portion of news coverage on the web is negative. It’s not a bad thing to our children’s education however, they admit, it’s filled with online predators looking for children to “groom” for abuse. Google claims to be “making us dumb” as well as destroying our focus to the point of distraction. This is also said to be leading to an epidemic of plagiarism. File sharing is killing music, online news is killing newspapers as well as Amazon is destroying book stores. The network has made fun of legal injunctions. The internet is filled with distortions, lies and falsehoods. Social networking fuels the growth of violent “flash mobs” that smuggle innocent columnists, like Jan Moir. And on and on.
All of this might cause uninitiated observers to ask: if the internet is such a catastrophe then how is it that 27 percent of the world’s population (or roughly 1.8 billion people) are using it daily day, while billions more are desperate to get the internet to view 링크모음?
How do we go about getting a more well-rounded view of the web ? What is the most important thing you need to know about how to comprehend the internet phenomenon? Having thought about it for a long time, my conclusion is that you only need some basic concepts that, when taken together, sharply reduce the confusion about which Castells’s writing is so beautifully.
How many thoughts? In 1956, scientist George Miller published a famous article published in Psychological Review. The title of the paper is “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on the Capacity of processing information” and in it Miller attempted to summarize previous experiments that attempted to gauge the limitations of our short-term memory. In each case he reported that the appropriate “channel capacity” varied between five and nine possibilities. Miller did not draw any definitive conclusions , however, and contented himself with a speculative guess that “the 7s that keep repeating themselves could represent something deep and profound or could be just a coincidence”. What he believed, was the case.
However, Miller was not aware of the enthusiasm of popular culture for anything with the word “magical’ as the subject. Instead of being known as a mere aggregater of research results, Miller found himself identified as a sage — a discoverer of a fundamental truth regarding human behavior. “My problem,” he wrote, “is that I’ve been targeted by an integer. For seven years , this number has been following me around, encroached in my most private data and has been a constant threat through the pages of the most widely read magazines… Perhaps there truly is something peculiar about the number , or perhaps I suffer from delusions of being targeted for a snare.”
However the basic notion that Miller formulated in his 1956 paper appears to have been able to stand the test of time. The idea is that our short-term memory is able to hold between five to 9 “chunks” in information, at any one time (here chunks are defined as an “meaningful element”). Therefore, when trying to determine how many major concepts about the internet could be of interest to most users it was sensible to choose a sum of nine. Here they are.
1. TAKE THE LONG AREA
The peculiar thing that happens when living through a war is that it’s very difficult to know what’s going on. Imagine what it must have been like being a resident of St Petersburg in 1917, during the time before Lenin as well as the Bolsheviks ultimately took the power. It is clear that important events are afoot and there are a myriad of theories and speculations yet no one can predict what the outcome will be. Only with hindsight will we get a clear idea of what transpired. However, the clarity that the benefit of hindsight brings is often misleading in that it does not reflect the extent to which things were confusing to the people of the day.
It’s happening right at the moment. We’re going through a dramatic change in our communication environment. As we don’t have benefit of hindsight, it’s possible that we don’t know exactly where this is going to take us. The thing we’ve learned from our experience in the field of communication technology can be that we tend to overestimate the immediate impact of the technological advances and to underestimate the long-term effects of these technologies.
We see this happening all around us at the moment in the form of wannabe savants experts, writers, and visionaries spout their own views about what internet technology will mean for publishing, business, retailing, education, politics, and the future of civilisation as we know it. These interpretations are often transformed into catchy slogans, memes or aphorisms: information “wants to become free” and the “long trail” is the future of retailing “Facebook has taken control of the internet” etc. These kinds of statements are really just short-term extrapolations from our past or current experience. They tell us little about what direction the current revolution we’re living through is heading. The question is: can we improve our performance — without falling into the trap that is feigning the omniscience of others?
This is an interesting idea: why not see whether there’s anything that can be learned from the past? Because humanity has been through changes in the way it communicates, caused by technology that allowed printing with movable type. The technology revolutionized the entire world. Indeed, it shaped the cultural environments in which the majority of us grew up. The great thing about it, as seen from the perspective of this essay is that it allows us to see it with the benefit of the hindsight. We are aware of what transpired.
A thought experiment
So let’s conduct what the Germans refer to as a “Thinkexperiment”A thought experiment. Imagine that the internet is the same kind of change in our communications environment to that created by printing. What could we gain from such an test?
The first printed Bibles appeared in 1455 through the press developed by Johannes Gutenberg in the German city of Mainz. Now, imagine that 1472 is the year which is 17 years following 1455. Imagine, further, it’s the version of an Mori pollster standing on the bridge of Mainz with a clipboard in your hand and asking pedestrians a few questions. The fourth question is: On a scale of 1 to 5, with one is “Not at all likely” while five signifies “Very likely” What is the likelihood you think it is that Gutenberg’s invention is:
(a) Subvert (a) undermine the power of the Catholic church?
(b) Power the Reformation?
(c) Allow the rise of science in the 21st century?
(d) Create completely new professions and social classes?
(e) What if we changed our perceptions of “childhood” as an unprotected phase in the early years of a person’s life?
On a scale of between one and five! One only has to ask questions to realize the absurdity of the concept. Printing certainly had all these effects however there is no way that anyone in 1472, in Mainz (or anywhere else in the world, for the matter) could have anticipated the magnitude of the impact it would be.
I’m writing this post in 2010 it’s been 17 years ago that the web was made mainstream. If I’m correct in my assessment of the internet causing an alteration in our communication environment, similar to the one created by Gutenberg and the like, it’s clearly ridiculous to me (or everyone else) to pretend to know how long-term its impact will be. The honest answer is that we’re not sure.
The problem is, that everybody affected by the net demands an answer immediately. Newspaper journalists as well as their employer are eager to know what’s about to impact their work. Also, the music business publishing, television networks, publishers, radio stations, travel agencies, government departments and universities, telcos, libraries, airlines, and a lot of others. It’s a sad fact that they will all have to become patient. For certain of them, by the time we have the answers to their questions, it will be already too late.
2 THE WEB ISN’T THE The Net
The most frequent — and surprisingly common misconception is the idea that internet access and the web are two different things. They’re not. The best way to grasp this is by using a railway analogy. Consider the internet as a track and signalling, the foundation that runs everything. In a rail network there are many kinds of traffic that depend on the infrastructureexpress trains at high speed, slow stopping trains, freight trains, commuter trains, and (sometimes) special maintenance and repair trains.
The internet and websites are just one of the many kinds of traffic that are running on its virtual tracks. Other kinds of traffic comprise music files being exchanged via peer-to peer networking, or through the iTunes store; movie files travelling via BitTorrent; software updates, email, instant messaging; conversations with a phone via Skype or other VoIP (internet telephony) services; streaming video and audio and other items that are that is too obscure to mention.
And (here’s the crucial part) there will definitely be different types of traffic, stuff which we’ve not even thought of, yet, on the internet in ten years’ time.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this: the web is huge and very important However, it’s only one of the many aspects that operate on the internet. The internet is a lot bigger and is far more significant than anything that travels on it.
Learn this distinction, and you’ll be halfway to wisdom.
3 DRUPTION IS A FEATURE NOT A BUG
One of the things that most confuses (and trouble) people with regards to the web is its ability to disrupt. At one point, you’ve got an established, successful business that includes, say, being the CEO of a music label; and the next your company is fighting for survival in which case you’ve paid a king’s ransom in intellectual property law firms in a losing struggle to stem the tide. You might be a newspaper organization looking at how a substantial income stream from classified ads may have suddenly disappeared; or a university librarian wondering why students use only Google today. What’s the way this can happen? And how does it happen so fast?
The answer lies in the structure of the network. When it was being created in the 1970s Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn as the principal designers were faced with two challenging challenges: how to create an integrated system that could seamlessly connect lots of other networks, and also how to design a network that is able to meet the needs of the future. The answer they found was astonishingly simple. This was the result of two principles. Firstly, there should be no central control or ownership and no single entity that could determine who can join the network or what it could be used for. In addition, the network must not be optimised for any specific application. It was the reason for the idea of an “simple” network that performed only one thing , which was to receive data packets from one end, and then do its best to deliver them to their destinations. The network would remain neutral in regards to the contents of the packets. They could contain fragments of email, porn videos telephone conversations, images… the network was not concerned, and would treat them in a similar way.
By implementing these twin protocols Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn made what they believed was an all-encompassing machine that would spring surprises. Their idea was that If you had the idea of a concept that was carried out through data packets the internet would take care of it for you, no need to ask. You didn’t even have to ask for permission from anyone.
The explosion in creativity and innovation – manifested in disruptive software – which the world has witnessed since the advent of the internet in the late 1980s could have taken a lot of institutions and industries by surprise, but it was predictable, given the architecture. There are a lot of talented programmers across the globe and the internet provided them with a perfect launchpad to unleash surprises. What kind of surprises can you expect? Well, the internet itself. It was largely the creation of a single individual – Tim Berners-Lee, who in the year 1991, uploaded the code to an internet server without needing to obtain permission from anyone.
Ten years after Berners-Lee began his work, a disaffected, music-loving teenager named Shawn Fanning spent six months creating software for sharing music files and in 1999, he placed his little delight on an internet server. He named it Napster and it acquired over 60 million users before the music industry was able to take it down. By that point, the file sharing genie was out and out of its bottle.
As all this was happening, plenty of equally smart programmers were coming up with more sinister surprises, in the shape of a wave of viruses, spam, worms and others security “exploits” which they’ve managed to unleash on an uninvolved network that doesn’t consider what’s inside your information packets. The dangers that could be posed by this “malware” surge are alarming. For example, mysterious organizations have created “botnets” (made consisting of millions of covertly compromised, networked PCs) which can be used to carry out massive co-ordinated attacks that could disrupt the network infrastructure of entire industries, or perhaps even entire nations. At present, with the exception of Estonia in 2007, we haven’t seen any such attack, however the worry is that it’ll eventually happen and will be the net’s own version of 9/11.
The Internet’s disruption is a result of its technological DNA. In programmers’ parlance, it’s a feature, not a bug , i.e. an intentional function and not a mishap. It’s hard to imagine how we can disable the ability of the network to generate unpleasant surprises without also disabling the other forms of creativity it fosters.
4 Consider ECOLOGY, NOT ECONOMICS.
As an analytical framework, economics is a subject that can be difficult to grasp when dealing with the net. Because while economics is the study of how to allocate scarce resources, the online world is marked by abundance. The same is true for ecology. (the study of natural systems) is focused on abundance and it’s a great idea to study what’s going on in the media from the perspective that of an ecologist.
Since the internet went mainstream in 1993 and the internet has become a major part of our media “ecosystem” as you like, has become a lot more complicated. The traditional, industrialised mass media system was characterized by declining rates of growth as well as a relatively low number of powerful, profitable slow-moving broadcasters and publishers and mass audiences made up mainly of passive consumers of centrally produced media; few communication channels, and a slow pace of evolution. The new media ecosystem is growing rapidly: it is home to millions of publishers, billions of active, web-savvy well-informed readers, viewers and listeners; an innumerable number of communication channels, and an incredible speed of change.
To an ecologist, this looks like an ecosystem with a diversity that has increased dramatically. It’s almost as if there was a time where large animals like dinosaurs (think Time Warner, Encyclopaedia Britannica) moved through the land slowly exchanging information in huge, distinct units, but were evolving into an ecosystem in which billions less diverse species consume transform, aggregate or break down and exchange information in much smaller quantities – and in which new gigantic life forms (think Google, Facebook) are emerging. In the natural world, increasing biodiversity is closely linked to greater productivity of the whole system – that is, the speed at which energy and material inputs are translated into increased growth. Could it be that this is also happening in the information sphere? And if it is, who will benefit in the long run?
5 COMPLEXITY IS THE NEW REALITY
If you’re not convinced by the ecological metaphor it’s clear that our new information-based environment is more complex – both in terms of the amount of participants as well as the number of interactions between them, and the pace of change – as compared to what has been experienced before. This complexity isn’t an accident or something to be put off: it’s the new reality, and one that we have to address. It’s a big challenge because of a number of reasons. First, the behavior of complex systems can be difficult to grasp and difficult to determine. Additionally, and most importantly, our collective mindsets in the public and private sectors aren’t well adapted for dealing with the complexity. The way that organizations have dealt with complexity is to tackle the issue by reducing complexity . This has included acquiring competitors or locking customers in as well as putting out standardised products and services etc. These approaches are unlikely to work in today’s dynamic environment, where intelligence, agility, flexibility, and a willingness to experiment (and fail) will provide better methods for taking on the challenges the networked environment is likely to throw at you.
6 The Network is NOW THE COMPUTER
For the baby boomers, a computer was a standalone PC operating Microsoft software. In the end, these computers were networked, first at a local level (via offices networks) and then globally (via web). But as broadband connections to the internet were commonplace, something odd happened: if you had sufficient speed for connecting to the network then you were less worried about the exact location of either your stored data or the device that was performing computing duties for you. This made the task more simple to complete. First, the companies (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft) who provided search also started to provide “webmail” which was email that was delivered via programs that were not directly on your personal computer, but instead through servers that were part of the web “cloud”. Then, Google provided word processing as well as spreadsheets, slide-making, and other “office”-type services on the internet. The list goes on.
Here was a transition from a world where the PC was actually the computer and to one where networks are effectively the computer. This has led to the development of “cloud computing” – – a system that uses simple devices (mobile phones, low-power laptops as well as tablets) to access computing services that are provided by powerful servers somewhere on the net. This shift towards computing as a utility than a service you can provide using your own equipment is a huge change for security, privacy and economic growth – and the public’s perceptions are far behind the speed of change. What does your family’s picture collection if it’s in the cloud, and your password is taken to the grave with you? What happens to your documents and emails – all likewise being stored on the cloud on another’s server? Or your “reputation” on eBay? All over the place the shift to cloud computing has significant consequences because it makes us more and more dependent on the internet. Yet, we’re still sleeping in this brave new world.
7 The WEB IS CHANGING
At one time, the web was merely an online publication platform where publishers (professional as well as amateur) uploading passive web pages to servers. For many in the media business this is still the mental image of the web. In reality, the web has seen at least three phases of evolution – from the original web 1.0 to the web 2.0 of “small pieces which are joined loosely” (social networking websites, mashups and webmail and many more) and is now heading towards some kind of web 3.0 – one that is global in scope, based on Tim Berners-Lee’s idea of the ‘semantic web’ that will contain enough metadata about their content to enable software to make informed judgements about their relevance and use. If we wish to understand the web in its current form instead of as it was in the past in the past, we must develop more realistic mental models of the web. First of all, we need to realize that it’s no longer just a publication medium.
8 HUXLEY AND ORWELL ARE THE BOOKENDS OF OUR FUTURE
A few years ago, the critic of culture Neil Postman, one of the 20th century’s most perceptive critics of technology believed that the insights of two writers would like two bookends, determine our future. Aldous Huxley believed we’d be destroyed by the things we love, while George Orwell thought we would be destroyed by what that we fear.
Postman was writing long before the internet became such a factor in our lives However, I believe he got it right. On the other (Huxleyan) one hand the internet has proved to be a profoundly liberating influence on our lives, providing numerous opportunities for information, entertainment enjoyment, delight communications, and seemingly unaffected consumption, to the point that it has gained a quasi-addictive status, especially over younger generations. One can calibrate the extent of the effect by the ever-growing levels of concern in educators, government officials and politicians. “Is Google making us stupid?” was the subject for one of the most cited articles published by Atlantic magazine in the year 2008. It was written by Nicholas Carr, a prominent author and blogger. The article discussed the possibility that continuous access to internet-connected information (not just Google) has turned us into a frenzied shallow thinkers who have lower attention to attention spans. (According to Nielsen an industry research company, the median time spent on a web page is 56 seconds.) Some critics believe that the constant use of internet can be rewiring our brains.
In the reverse (Orwellian) side it is the closest thing to a complete surveillance system that the world has ever witnessed. Everything you do on internet is recorded – every email you send, every website you browse, every file you download, every web search that you conduct is recorded and saved somewhere, be it at the web servers belonging to your Internet service provider or of the cloud services that you access. As a tool to an oppressive government, who is concerned about the behaviour, social activities and thoughts of its citizens, the internet is just about perfect.
9 Our INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY REGIME Is NO ANYMORE FIT FOR The PURPOSE
In the analog age the copying process was slow and degenerative (ie copying copies became progressively worse than original copies). In the digital world copying is easy and flawless. In reality, copying is to computers as breathing is for living organisms, inasmuch as every computational operation involves it. When you look at a website page, for example it is copied to a backup page is loaded into the video memory of your computer (or your phone or tablet) before the device can display it on the screen. Therefore, you cannot even look at something online without (unknowingly) making a copy of it.
The current system of intellectual property was created in a time when copying was difficult and inefficient, it’s not surprise that it’s becoming out of tune with the connected world. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint) digital technology has given internet users software tools that make it simple to copy, edit and publish any content that is accessible via digital formats – which means nearly everything is now available. This has led to millions of people are now “publishers” because their work can be published worldwide on platforms such as Blogger, Flickr and YouTube. Therefore, wherever one goes, one finds things that violate copyright in one way or some other way.
It’s a nebulous yet inescapable truth – just as it is in the fact that teenagers tend to drink excessive alcohol. The only way to stop the copying is to stop the web. Nothing is wrong with intellectual property (or alcohol) as such, but our copyright laws are now so out of date with the realities that they’re getting a bad rap. They need to be overhauled urgently in order to adapt to current digital conditions. The problem is that none of our legislators understand this, so this won’t happen anytime in the near future.
It’s absurd to think that these nine concepts encompass all that is there to be learned about the internet. However, they offer an understanding of this phenomenon “in an open circle” in the manner of, and might even serve as an alternative to the exaggerated and frenzied way of thinking that often appears to be a commentary on the latest developments in the world of cyberspace. It’s a sad reality that if there’s an “truth” about the internet, it’s rather prosaic: to almost any major concern about the implications of the network over the long term, the only answer that is rational is that famously offered by Mao Zedong’s foreign minister Zhou Enlai, when asked about the significance of the French Revolution: “It’s too early to say.” It’s true.
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