The Internet? What is it good for?
Think for a minute and explain whether the Internet, as the world’s largest network, has any use.
Considering what you’ve read in Evgeny Morozov’s book The Net Delusion, have you lost your optimisim for the Internet? How does Morozov’s tempered enthusiasm for the Internet challenges what he calls the cyberuptoianism that you might find in Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus?
Does your initial impression of what the Internet is “good for” support or challenge what we’ve read in Morozov’s or Shirky’s works?
Post your response here on this very blog by Monday, December 17. Be sure to add the category “Net Delusion (Morozov)” to your post so I can find it easily.
My Excitement for the Internet
I am a bit older than most of you in class so my experience with the Internet has been different yours. While some of you probably never grew up without being connected to the Internet somehow, most of my training of the Internet came from the speculative narratives that were found in science fiction movies or in television programs about the future.
When I first connected to an Internet service, it was 1994. It was my first year of college, and we were all given, if we requested, an account on the local UNIX computer. Thinking back to that time, I’m surprised any of this even caught on. We had to dial in not to a beautiful graphical account, but to a command-line interface. Because most students were intimiated by the interface, they just used the account to check email. There were some of us who discovered aspects of the account. We discovered newsgroups, where I mostly read about my favorite bands from other fans We discovered gopher, an information service that was menu driven instead of hypertextual as is the web. And speaking of the web, that was around, but it was a text-only experience, using a UNIX browser named Lynx.
The excitement about my Internet account for more than just email was that I felt like I was connected to all those crazy futuristic services I saw in those movies and television shows about the web. (I wouldn’t discover until later that there existed whole of libraries of this literature, too.) Being connected to an invisible network is not just useful, it can be downright intoxicating. It’s hard not to let your imagination wander and dream of the possibilities that this network can realize.
I think all of us had this excitement the first time we went online. And this excitement has perhaps blinded us into thinking that this new technology can do more than just entertain us. By connecting us with the rest of the world, we can have a hand in changing it.
Between getting the flu over the weekend and encountering some technical issues, I am posting a brief lecture on Morozov as an audio lecture. I hope it helps you with your assignment and your final exam.
Thanks for a great semester.