Sunday, June 3, 2007

Why We Web, Overture.

In the first of what I hope to be an ongoing series of related articles, I examine the culture, economy, and underbelly of the World Wide Web in a segment I’ve dubbed, “Why We Web”.  In these articles I hope to reach an understanding about the technology we live with and depend on every day of our lives and where we as a society are headed if current trends continue.

Some time back in November ‘06, as a result of the ubiquitous Playstation 3 Frenzy, a short blip on the radar of “old men criticizing technology and blaming young people who use technology for the downfall of western civilization” came up.

Apparently Bill O’Reilly, a popular conservative pundit for the Fox News Network, made a few noteworthy comments on his radio broadcast targeted at young people and the machines they use.  You can read a few choice excerpts in the article I’ve linked to, but I want to focus in on a few particular lines in order to examine them further.

Basically what you have is a large portion of the population, mostly younger people under the age of 45, who don’t deal with reality - ever. So they don’t know what day it is; they don’t know temperature it is; they don’t know what their neighbor looks like. They don’t know anything… because they are constantly diverted by a machine. Now what this does is it takes a person away from reality because they’ve created their own reality…

Now, I’ll admit, I spend a fair amount of time indoors, and that time spent indoors is usually spent in front of a computer.  I’m not a very social person, by nature I generally like being alone.  I’m not very active, but I do what I can to stay…”fit” (though, I don’t know what one expects from a college student).  All that aside, I know what reality is, and so do most people, no matter how much time the spend playing video games or surfing the web.


The Internet is a means of communication, fundamentally, that’s all it is.  I would imagine someone who spends 80% of their time staring at a screen would be the last person you’d expect to not at least know what day it is.

Knowing the temperature is probably some gutless sub-text as he really means to say, “they don’t go outside”.  However, I’m willing to wager he can’t tell me the temperature just by stepping outside either.

they don’t know what their neighbor looks like.

On the contrary, Bill (can I call ya Bill?), they know exactly what their neighbors look like.  They know what their neighbors look like, they know their neighbors’ favorite hobbies, movies, television shows, and books, and it gets better!  Their neighbors know all the same stuff about them.  They know all kinds of stuff about each other, and they’re communicating on a much higher level than you, Mr. O’Reilly.

Putting the bastard aside (pardon my French, Bill hates the French), this “higher level of communication” is what I want to hone in on.  Advancements in technology, specifically, those made in the realm of the Internet and the new semantic web, is influencing our social patterns in so many ways, now more than ever.  New applications for the web, those impacting the blogosphere, especially by way of folksonomies and mash-ups are released every day.  Repositories like the Wikipedia and blogs provide us with an inexhaustible wealth of information on virtually any topic.  This is the true World Wide Web: a global infrastructure and database of information, ideas, and events all stored and completely accessible to anyone who wishes to access it (and has the proper means of course).  That is communication at it’s finest…but why do we web?

The desire to stay connected at all times is a very strange paradigm and it stems from man’s constant insecurity and inherent fear.  Man fears loneliness.  The mind, by nature, is always lacking something, and so we form bonds with other people in order to fill those gaps.  It is because of this that mankind always seeks to be connected.  Even something virtual like a telephone or a text-message can make an impact.  The simple notion of having access to someone somewhere, is enough to fill the void sometimes.

So that’s the appeal, but what’s the drive?  The drive stems from a number of sources, many of them far more difficult to ascertain than others, but with careful examination and further discussion, I feel we can come to some sort of a resolution on the matter.


It’s not your money that they’re after, boy it’s you.

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