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Author Topic: The internet: Everything you ever need to know  (Read 4086 times)

40hz

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The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« on: June 24, 2010, 03:00:41 PM »
Wall-E and Eve.jpg


Every so often somebody writes an article that neatly sums up a complex topic. And in doing so, he lays the groundwork for quality discussions which (ideally) lead to even better insights down the road.

BoingBoing recently found such an article. It's written by John Naughton, who is a "professor of the public understanding of technology" at Open University. It's entitled: The internet: Everything you ever need to know.

I was going to do a write-up. But on reflection, I realized there was little I could say that hadn't already been said better - either by BoingBoing or by Prof. Naughton himself. So I'll content myself with saying: Read it!

But enough already... Go check it out for yourself.   8) :Thmbsup:


From BoingBoing:
Quote
John Naughton's feature in today's Observer, "The internet: Everything you ever need to know," is a fantastic read and a marvel of economy, managing to pack nine very big ideas into 15 minutes' reading. This is the kind of primer you want to slide under your boss's door.


You can read the BoingBoing article here.

You can directly jump to Naughton's article here.

Some excerpts:

Quote
A funny thing happened to us on the way to the future. The internet went from being something exotic to being boring utility, like mains electricity or running water – and we never really noticed. So we wound up being totally dependent on a system about which we are terminally incurious. You think I exaggerate about the dependence? Well, just ask Estonia, one of the most internet-dependent countries on the planet, which in 2007 was more or less shut down for two weeks by a sustained attack on its network infrastructure. Or imagine what it would be like if, one day, you suddenly found yourself unable to book flights, transfer funds from your bank account, check bus timetables, send email, search Google, call your family using Skype, buy music from Apple or books from Amazon, buy or sell stuff on eBay, watch clips on YouTube or BBC programmes on the iPlayer – or do the 1,001 other things that have become as natural as breathing.

The internet has quietly infiltrated our lives, and yet we seem to be remarkably unreflective about it. That's not because we're short of information about the network; on the contrary, we're awash with the stuff. It's just that we don't know what it all means. We're in the state once described by that great scholar of cyberspace, Manuel Castells, as "informed bewilderment".


Quote
The strange thing about living through a revolution is that it's very difficult to see what's going on. Imagine what it must have been like being a resident of St Petersburg in 1917, in the months before Lenin and the Bolsheviks finally seized power. It's clear that momentous events are afoot; there are all kinds of conflicting rumours and theories, but nobody knows how things will pan out. Only with the benefit of hindsight will we get a clear idea of what was going on. But the clarity that hindsight bestows is also misleading, because it understates how confusing things appeared to people at the time.

So it is with us now. We're living through a radical transformation of our communications environment. Since we don't have the benefit of hindsight, we don't really know where it's taking us. And one thing we've learned from the history of communications technology is that people tend to overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies — and to underestimate their long-term implications.


Quote
Here's a radical idea: why not see if there's anything to be learned from history? Because mankind has lived through an earlier transformation in its communications environment, brought about by the invention of printing by movable type. This technology changed the world — indeed, it shaped the cultural environment in which most of us grew up. And the great thing about it, from the point of view of this essay, is that we can view it with the benefit of hindsight. We know what happened.

-----------------

When you're done, take a moment to read some of the comments at both sites. It's marvellous how an intelligently written article can inspire some equally intelligent commentary. Here's one:

Quote
Patrick Nielsen Hayden•#1• 7:46 AM Sunday, Jun 20, 2010 •Reply

Of course, another image of "radically increased biodiversity" overcoming a "slow-moving" status quo is that of a town being swallowed by a jungle. There was violence and unfairness in the town, but it was at least to some extent constrained. In the jungle, "fair" isn't even an aspiration; it's just nature red in tooth and claw. Why this is something we should be enthusiastic about is a little hard to see.

I think this is a good piece overall. But I think it's worth noting that the role of most of us in "an ecosystem whose biodiversity has expanded rapidly" isn't "fun bohemian," it's "lunch."

Hard to argue with that one!  ;D
« Last Edit: June 24, 2010, 04:00:50 PM by 40hz »

Eóin

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2010, 04:09:54 PM »
Quote
Of course, another image of "radically increased biodiversity" overcoming a "slow-moving" status quo is that of a town being swallowed by a jungle. There was violence and unfairness in the town, but it was at least to some extent constrained. In the jungle, "fair" isn't even an aspiration; it's just nature red in tooth and claw. Why this is something we should be enthusiastic about is a little hard to see.

I think this is a good piece overall. But I think it's worth noting that the role of most of us in "an ecosystem whose biodiversity has expanded rapidly" isn't "fun bohemian," it's "lunch."

Aaaargh metaphor fail! :D Maybe it's just me but I can't see how the extension of the metaphor parallels with what it originally described. You can't just extent the logic of a metaphor and assume it still applies to the original topic. I think misuse and understanding of metaphors and anaoligies is rapidly becoming my new pet hate :D


Anyway that aside, it really is an excellent article, I particularly like the last paragraph of point #1. We see that fear of the unknown everyday in the decisions and actions of people failing to keep up with the changes.

zridling

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2010, 08:50:59 PM »
One of the best articles of the year, indeed. Thanks for posting. This made me slow down:

On the other (Orwellian) hand, the internet is the nearest thing to a perfect surveillance machine the world has ever seen. Everything you do on the net is logged – every email you send, every website you visit, every file you download, every search you conduct is recorded and filed somewhere, either on the servers of your internet service provider or of the cloud services that you access. As a tool for a totalitarian government interested in the behaviour, social activities and thought-process of its subjects, the internet is just about perfect.
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When I watch 70s cop/detective dramas, I ask: how did cops catch crooks in the days before ubiquitous phone/GPS, surveillance, DNA, and other technologies? (This is why most of the great serial murderers were from earlier times, I suppose.)

Paul Keith

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2010, 09:00:36 PM »
"Everything?"  :P

Edit: Sorry, I just recalled the Internet is for Porn song when I skimmed the article although porn was briefly mentioned.  
« Last Edit: June 24, 2010, 09:03:14 PM by Paul Keith »

40hz

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2010, 10:18:06 PM »
^ In all fairness, porn was the first profitable business model to emerge from the internet.

Long before Amazon and Google and Apple's iTunes, there was Danni Ashe and Wifey, smiling angelically while raking in the $$$.

Feel free to draw whatever conclusions you will.  8)



zridling

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2010, 08:07:09 AM »
Porn also sped up the popularization of VHS back in the day, bringing privacy to viewing rather than going into adult theaters or the back rooms of adult bookstores (don't ask me how I know). If Mom ever asks how do you make money from the internet, well, there's always porn.

Paul Keith

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2010, 08:47:22 AM »
@zridling

You'd be surprised how common that is even in the context of amateurs:

http://www.brokegrad...-to-pay-for-college/

40hz

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2010, 02:23:05 PM »
Porn also sped up the popularization of VHS back in the day, bringing privacy to viewing rather than going into adult theaters or the back rooms of adult bookstores (don't ask me how I know).

Interestingly enough, one side effect of the internet and porn hooking up was something that is referred to as the "feminization of porn."

The porn market garnered an anticipated increase in sales thanks to the privacy afforded by being able to own your own adult movies. But the big surprise came when adult film industry suddenly found their biggest and fastest growth sector was its female customers.

This new market segment also changed the look of the porn industry. In general, porn became a more serious and literary form of entertainment. Some of the newer films started providing storylines (!) and character development (!!) - which was more in keeping with mainstream film. Production values and budgets also increased untill it reached the point where (from a purely visual perspective) most adult movies began to strongly resemble their mainstream counterparts. And when you took into consideration the subject matter of some mainstream films, the difference between  'adult' and R-rated no longer seemed that great.

VHS may have afforded the viewers greater privacy. But it still required them to go out in public to buy or rent a film. The web, however, brought adult entertainment directly into the home with nobody any the wiser. Or so the theory went.

That extra level of privacy and anonymity seemed to be the trigger point for women to start buying in. Apparently, many women didn't mind watching a racy movie or two. They just didn't want other people to know they did. For obvious reasons.

Not that the indicators weren't there. Check out the average "romance" novel. Many of them contain an eye-opening amount of 'graphic' content. But there is a polite understanding that these are to be called "bodice rippers" rather pornographic historical 'romance' novels.

sgt2.gif

Very interesting demographic/behavioral/market shift.

Wonder what other changes and 'recalibrations' the internet will bring us...





« Last Edit: June 26, 2010, 02:26:18 PM by 40hz »

higherstate

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Re: The internet: Everything you ever need to know
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2010, 01:42:08 AM »
It seems to me that the best generalisation that you can say about the internet is that it massively speeds up the breaking down of barriers.... in every sense.

Whether it is the spreading of previously unobtainable information, the huge jumps in communication, the potential to educate or the pushing of social boundaries and taboos.
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