Friday, September 22, 2006


BBC NEWS | Technology | Global web celebrations under way
The organisers are planning to create what they hope will be the largest global online photo collaboration.

Web users are being asked to tag their pictures with OneWebDay and upload them to photo-sharing sites Webshots and Flickr, to create global photo albums.
Well, OK, here's my contribution.

The organisers are also encouraging people to post entries to their blogs on Friday which reflect on how the web has changed their lives.
Well, OK, let's see... I didn't have a personal domain, web page or blog before Sir Tim and his colleagues came around with their good ideas, so I credit them and the Web with putting me in contact with some good people I'd never have known otherwise. I also, though, spend a lot of time using the computer, whereas in times past I might have spent that time interacting with people more directly. Who knows?

I'm sure others will go into such things as how the Web has had an impact on political life. Aside from things like Howard Dean leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination early on largely as a result of Web activism, now we have fundie jihadi's using the Web for their purposes. Ayatollah Khomeini became HMFIC of Iran without the Web, so maybe the jihadis would be where they are today without it, but the Web seems to have had a significant impact on radical jihadi operations. (The embrace of the Web by 7th-century-minded people seems ironic to me.)

I used to have some hope that the Web would lead to a complex interconnectedness from which might emerge a sort of global consciousness, a global brain along the lines described by Howard Bloom and others, that would somehow help humanity's lagging evolution to catch up with present conditions to which we seem so maladapted. More recently, though, I've come to think Cas Sunstein is right when he worries about increased polarization as a function of the Daily Me. "The imagined world of innumerable, diverse editions of the "Daily Me" is the furthest thing from a utopian dream, and it would create serious problems from the democratic point of view." Maybe the global brain will suffer a form of schizophrenia (before getting better, one hopes).

The Web has given me new tools at work. I'm pretty sure I was the first engineer at work to publish a report on the intranet, rather than on paper, some years ago. I keep a little web site on my employer's intranet where I keep job-related reference material, reports and so on. I also have a fledgling online forum for people at other companies involved in my line of work, and searching the Web is a useful tool in my job from time to time.

I guess the Web is like any other tool, available for good or evil. Like a gun, I'd much rather have it than not.

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