1.7.11

the orphaned community leader

Picture the scene, an uneven field of technology, like an opening shot from a terminator movie, mangled titanium body parts and jettisoned circuitry strewn across the wasteland.
You are the embodiment of mankind; your fleshy shape stumbles and falls as you strive onwards in a never ending march of progress. The metallic carcasses and blinking rubble surrounding you should make sense, they should be a part of your history, of your memory, but in reality you have no idea how or when you began to walk or how long you have struggled through this mire of technology that hinders your advance.

Sound familiar? Probably not, as by reading this you have embraced one of the myriad of nuances and intriguing aspects of the internet.

The problem (and yet for most, the beauty) with advancing technologies such as the internet is their lack of a control mechanism, the community organisation and augmentation of these devices and systems leaves them distinctly outside of the boundaries of the controllable outputs of their predecessors.
The recent upheaval in courts surrounding the blatant disregard, predominantly by twitter users, of legally issued injunctions highlights this wonderfully. The subsequent incapacity of any form of justice being exacted upon the internet community only enhanced the idea of some supercharged, freedom fighting collective. The current and upcoming farce that will be the attempt to extradite Lulzsec hacker Ryan Cleary to the US to face charges only proves that the internet, whether it is a tool used for freedom of speech or nefarious scheming, still requires those who wish to control it to find a real world embodiment to face the respective consequences. 
On a world news scale this makes the relevant points of authority seem rather ineffectual, any denouncement of hackers or large scale internet users as ‘losers with no lives’ comes across as petty name calling and emphasises their inability to deal with the situation on its most basic level. If you cant stop ‘spiteful fifteen year old geeks’ from breaking into the CIA, then it speaks volumes more about security at the CIA than it does about your presumptions of the social lives of said hackers.

But the internets chaotic freedom and orphaned nature reaches much further into our every day lives. The fact that companies blame any modern lack of productivity on social networking is a little short sighted in my opinion. When at work I may take occasional skims across the waves of the internet, not because I wish to procrastinate the days work ahead but because many of my dealings are conducted via the web. I understand that anytime not working raises the eyebrows and the whip of an employer, fair is fair, I am employed to work not put my digital affairs in order. Conversely though if I were a smoker it is well within my rights to demand time be given to me so that I might enjoy such an activity within work hours. In both cases neither employee is working and the dedication some previous colleagues of mine have to smoking almost borders on a religious rite, I doubt I could send as many dawdling emails as the sheer number of cigarettes they consume. But this is not a gripe I can take up with my employer; it is far too self serving and will no doubt fall on deaf ears, which is the point.

The internet and its many activities is still seen as fad, a frivolous activity in which anything but pure utilitarian usage is for the eternally-devoid-of-a-sex-life. Yet we are happy to devote to it our most trusted and adult of pursuits, banking, insurance, shopping, even mortgages can be bought online. The internet seems to be treated like a child slave of disproportionate intelligence, we allow it to take on the most mature and important tasks we can imagine while still seeing it as something we own and can cast off without a seconds thought.
One of the other unique qualities of the internet is its covert embedding into the very fabric of modern society. Advances in computer systems have given us the ability to navigate and command almost every part of our lives through interlinked networks, from taxes to transportation, education to electricity. It is a place we meet friends and share our ‘real-world’ experiences, a place where our hobbies and fanaticisms can be warmly embraced by those of a kindred nature or a soap box for issues as widely pervading as recipes for couscous and revolutionary coup d’etats. 

So, why then, do we treat it as an annoyance, a boundless irreverent child of exterior parentage which we would chastise if we only knew to whom it belonged? 
Are our digital pursuits being marginalised due to their pseudo-ethereal nature?  

Many new products and systems are demonised due to lack of understanding, but none so much as the internet which has had to shoulder the blame for pretty much every problem man can face. Pornography, religious extremism, violence, misogyny and the slow death of the music industry have all been laid upon the internet. There seems a distinct three way imbalance between the severity of blame we wish the internet to account for, the importance of tasks we will accept it to run to our aide and the way in which we belittle its uses and users for their enjoyment and acceptance of it into their everyday life. 


The nets detractors seem to be very short-sighted and quick to arms when denouncing the internets heavy users, what they are missing is that the geeks and social outcasts they poke fun at are the ones creating the web they use. They are the ones forging systems and tweaking developer’s code for the sheer fun of it; they are sculpting the intricate building blocks upon which the modern web is built. Compare the frame based internet experience of the early 90’s with the lush interactive landscape of touch screen and HTML5 and tell me they are wasting their time. All this stems from the minds of those ‘geeks’ who realised very quickly that the community of users on the net are the ones who can build it for the greater good. The reason most Google tools such as chromium and sketchup are free to use is because user created content enhances the internet experience for everyone. Linux and Ubuntu are pushing out the corporate stranglehold on operating systems while ChomeOS is planning on discarding it altogether to give computing a wholly web based direction.

The internet is not the toy box plaything it has been deemed, rather it is a constantly evolving, intricate system built by dedicated, determined and (somewhat) disturbingly intelligent human beings who have the foresight to accept that in our current self-centred social bubble that true community spirit still exists.
So, while media detractors, government agencies and company execs wade through the perilous landscape of technology, constantly checking over their shoulders in fear of the new model digital harbinger, we can walk on safe. The ‘geeks’ will tinker away at the wreckage of previous systems to pave our way with cohesive content and refined design. 

No comments:

Post a Comment