Thursday, January 22, 2009

For Better or For Worse?

“Dude…that’s so messed up,” my friend said when I told him that someday, in theory, the Internet might be a three-dimensional virtual world that we could walk through and touch. His response seemed to say, “I like my Internet how it is- flat, anonymous, and stagnant.”

With a new President in office who owes a lot to emerging technologies for the opportunity to fumble the presidential oath sitting in his new Oval office without a computer or a blackberry, we should consider our knee-jerk resistance to new technologies. Is a different layout for the Internet wrong or just…different? Is instant messaging and text messaging destroying our language, or just changing it? Are YouTube and web videos lowering our attention spans, or just changing the kind of attention that we pay?

Consider the fact that I am now sitting in my underwear at my apartment in Boston, expounding my mildly educated opinion to potentially (highly potentially) thousands of people, who can then instantly respond with their humble opinions, creating a cloud full of thought-precipitation. This opportunity exists only through a shift in technology from the Internet of the early 1990s to the current “Web 2.0” that allows and encourages active participation rather than consumption hegemony. Worse? Or just different?

And what of the storm of “information-clouds” that are so numerous and overwhelming they couldn’t possibly all be decoded? Are we just tossing information into cyberspace as if skipping a rock into a pond full of other, similar rocks? No, because in that instant of active writing, blogging, chatting, responding, posting, or uploading, if never even exposed to the eyes of one other human being, that creator, blogger, chatter or responder has had a deeply more intimate moment with that information than was ever possible before. And that is powerful.

So we can resist new technologies, kicking and screaming about the detriment to our youth, or we can inspect it, use it, play with it, roll with it, and flourish along side it (or inside of it!).

So let’s think ahead, and consider letting President Obama keep his laptop.

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