How Can This Be?

The greatest book about the Web, bar none, is David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined. I think the book nailed the nature of the Web, and the motivations behind how we use it and why it has become such a large part in our lives. So when I quote the following, I really believe it. It’s one of the things that motivates me to continue in the line of work I am in.

David Weinberger: Small Pieces Loosely Joined – Kids Version:

So, here we have two worlds. In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the vastness of the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries, divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns. On the Web, people come together – they connect – because they care about the same things.

The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together.

Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web – built out of hyperlinks and energized by people’s interests and passions – is a place where we can be better at being people.

And that is what the Web is for.

Taking that as gospel, and taking the following as the truth most of us agree on (most folks still think Saddam had something to do with 9/11), can it be that the Web as an information platform has failed? And if so, what can be done about it?

Salon: Michael Massing: “What Orwell Didn’t Know::

Orwell had expected advances in technology to allow the ruling elite to monopolize the flow of information and through it to control the minds of the masses. In reality, though, those advances have set off an explosion in the number and diversity of news sources, making efforts at control all the harder to achieve. The 24-hour cable news channels, the constantly updated news Web sites, news aggregators like Google News, post-it-yourself sites such as YouTube, ezines, blogs, and digital cameras have all helped feed an avalanche of information about world affairs. In Iraq, reporters embedded with troops have been able via the Internet to file copy directly from the field. Through “milblogs,” soldiers have been able to share with the outside world their impressions about their experiences on the ground. Even as the war has dragged on, it has given rise to a shelf-full of revealing books, written by not only generals and journalists but also captains, lieutenants, privates, national guardsmen, and even deserters.

In short, no war has been more fully chronicled or minutely analyzed than this one.

…Yet even amid this information glut, the public remains ill-informed about many key aspects of the war. This is due less to any restrictions imposed by the government, or to any official management of language or image, than to controls imposed by the public itself.

…In his reflections on politics and language, Orwell operated on the assumption that people want to know the truth. Often, though, they don’t.

3 thoughts on “How Can This Be?

  1. It is a bad assumption. But there is part of me – the developer part of me – that still feels like communications and collaboration technology can help make the world a better place. I can’t shake it.

  2. The web is merely an amplifier; and a remarkably non-descriminatory one at that. It increases the reach of every human tendency for good or ill, including our tendency to repeat one another. One outlet repeats the error or opinion of the first, and so on, until the average reader has seen the identical item sourced from multiple outlets. The false impression of multiple sources feeds the illusion accuracy.

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