Saturday, January 20, 2007

Blog Post 2: At your fingertips

I have to say despite the fact that I constantly feel totally overwhelmed by all the information available to us today due to online technology and the World Wide Web, I am SO excited to be part of a new generation that has the ability to share facts, opinions, analysis, history, parody, reactions, interpretations, and more almost instantaneously.
Thinking about the development of the Internet over the years and the discussions we had in class concerning its latest manifestation known as Web 2.0, I felt like commenting on what many predicted would be the result of an online culture. I recall many saying that the Internet would isolate individuals and make us less social, less concerned with those who share our world. Apathy and selfishness would reign and people would no longer be interested in local or global issues. Perhaps I am blowing this out of proportion, but these were (and still may be) ideas that I recall being tossed around in the late 90s and early twenty-first century not only with complete seriousness but also with a real fear that the Internet would truly be the downfall of society.
I think we are still in the early stages of our so called "information society" and that it will take some time to adjust to the information overload that many of us feel. However, the benefits of having such quick and easy access to so much information are almost indescribable.
What is so unique and important about the Internet, and specifically about the Web 2.0 phenomenon, is that people can now be so much MORE connected to the world and to each other. We have the ability to actually seek out answers to our questions the minute we formulate them. In addition to this we can also share this information with a friend by simply typing a few keys, we can also display our own opinions on a subject and invite others to read and comment on them. Web 2.0 tools allow us to go and seek out that presidential speech we missed the night before or even to compare it to the one that was given a year ago. I can read an article on CNN and then immediately send it to a friend who I think may also be interested, no matter how far that friend lives from me. I can seek out the opinions of many news sources on a particular topic and then I can search for reactions to these events by pundits and analysis on both sides of the political spectrum.
At no other time were individuals so enabled to educate (or misinform themselves as the case may be) themselves so easily and to share information with others regardless of physical proximity. Linking, blogging, video and photo posting, collaborative encyclopedias, podcasts, virtual communities, e mailing all of these tools allow us to participate more fully (if we so choose) in our newly evolving global community.
I realize I'm painting an extremely simplistic and cheery picture here, but I just want to express the optimism I feel concerning this freedom to learn and explore on our own time/terms. As someone who struggles with the retention of facts and has unpredictable bouts of intense curiosity on any given subject at any given time I for one find the 24 hour, bookmark-able, forward-able, download-able, key word search-able, spell check enabled, diverse WWW to be the best thing since sliced bread.

P.S. I realize that I do not take into account the issue of the "digital divide" and the fact that computers and the Internet are NOT available to everyone, nor will that likely be the case anytime soon. Again, my rosy picture is just a look into the future I hope we are creating through education, access to information and collaboration.

1 comment:

Michael Stephens said...

WOW! I like your thinking. The Digital Divide is something to address...and I see libraries leveraging a unique position to offer access to any and all: podcast studios, tech center, blogging station... oh yeah! To me it takes the mission of libraries into the "evolving global community."