Every time I write a post, every time I tweet or leave a comment somewhere on the web I am aware that I’m digitalizing a small part of me. Consequently, digital bits and bytes of me are scattered all over the Internet. What If there were smart software (a contradiction in terms) that could pull all these parts together, everything I’ve ever said for the last 15 years, then aggregate it all into a book? You would still only know the image I’ve created. If you have not spent some of your life with me, in the real world, you don’t know me.
There are algorithms that attempt this of course; Amazon and Google, for example want to know my buying habits. Anyone with a little knowledge can find all sorts of information about me, from medical records to criminal behavior to what I watch on television. I am from a generation that remembers privacy, and the value of being left alone if that’s what I want. Until the day I die, I will always feel disconcerted that my private life died years before me.
What is Web 2?
For the uninitiated, Web 2 gives the impression that the Internet was upgraded from Web 1. Using implication terminology we are taught to think in terms of software upgrading, so the inference of a new version seems to be correct. The Internet makes us into an assumption machine with buzz words like Web 2. Key to all this is buzz.
Web 2 is
more of a move from passivity to interaction than a technological innovation. Through the Nineties into the this century and even now, most web sites are passive. We look, read and move on.
Conversely, blogs and other social media have changed the way we behave on the net. We don’t merely communicate as we did with email, Usenet or even IM. We become personalities, albeit created by us making this personality highly subjective, in some cases suspicious.
Granted, the Internet has always been a place of anonymity. Peter Steiner’s famous quote, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” still holds true. We have added to the dog a more complete picture, literally with avatars, photos and video.
But I knew that…
The majority of the population doesn’t use the Internet for anything. If you’ve read this far and been on the net for a few years, you know that Twitter is a way to interact, to communicate on another level, one that supersedes what was lacking in IRC or Usenet. We know the superficialities of social media, but do we know the implications of it, where it is going and our personal little part in this gigantic movement?
Life is more than an iPad
Having worked in IT for years, I tend to step back once in a while and look at technology philosophically. I want to know how it impacts my life. The iPad is a good example of collective acceptance of an appliance, a technology that is neither good or bad, not in the hands of ordinary people using it every day. Yet as of this writing, an estimated 6 million iPads will be sold in 2010. Google Buzz, another example, is new and would go unnoticed if not made by Google. I am astounded that so many people see the Internet as not much more than a place to beta test, be among the first and pay for untried gadgets.
And The Point is?
Question. Question everything or go blindly into the collective cyberspace, broken into little parts. I use Twitter for social reasons. After a long period of resistance, I’ve discovered I can make connections and meet discrete people, maybe collaborate, offer and accept help and share a few things. However, Twitter does not define me. I am not the little avatar picture you see on Twitter, a blog or a comment. Until you meet me, talk with me, spend some time with me, shake my hand, feel that I am flesh and blood, you don’t even know what flavor of ice cream I like, and vice versa of course. We should never allow the fake world to become our only world. No matter, web 2, 3 or 42 its still virtual.
As I write this, I’m almost finished with a book that explores Web 2 from a philosophical point of view. “You Are Not A Gadget” by Jaron Lanier discusses how the Internet today pigeon-holes us into niches created by social media. This in turn affects how we see ourselves, and how the collective brain of Web 2 sees and creates us. This is not a light read. I believe everyone should read this book, social media user or not. It makes no difference whether anyone uses the Internet, the Internet uses everyone.