To be or not to be: the Question of Interactivity

The Internet snuck into our life and suddenly we find ourselves dependant upon its virtues.  Looking back over the past decade, I remember little transition between the way things were --researching through dusty bookshelves and handwriting letters-- to the way things are—-streaming video and instant text messaging. The internet revolution was as quiet and quick as the new G5 dual processor!  With little notice, computing became fun and easy for everyone from teenagers to their grandmothers. Current technologies have improved connection speeds that were troubling in the early days.    Despite current annoyances such as pop-up advertising and government monitoring, Western society is enjoying the benefits of the Internet on a daily basis.

The popularity of computer communication is affecting the societies and psychologies of the entire globe.   With ease and pleasure we talk for hours about the positive effects the Internet has had upon our lives.  Understanding the potential detriments of the Web to society is a more strenuous mental activity.  The purpose for addressing these negative issues is by no means a protest against post-modern technology, the Internet is unstoppable and embraceable.  As we navigate through the apparently endless stream of html information, however, an awareness of its limits and disadvantages helps us maximize its possibilities.

While the Internet enables the rapid exchange of information between people of distant technological nations, it further isolates the people of more agriculturally minded societies from the “global” conversation.  Likewise, the ability to navigate and publish on the Net is economically determined.  American society provides public access to the Internet at libraries and other subsidized institutions.  In less affluent nations, access is available to most citizens through low cost computing centers.  Theoretically the Internet is available to everyone.    The rate at which one receives information however, is economically determined by wither or not one can afford a personal computer, purchase upgrades, and maintain high speed DSL.    The current assumption is that these price inequalities will level out with the technology.

In America it is considered easy and affordable to publish on the Internet.  For as little as $15 a month even children create and maintain websites.  Once every global citizen has accessible computing stations and the education to utilize hyper-power, the Internet promises to become a virtual universe as vast as human minds that created it.   Contrary to popular belief, however, the Internet is currently limited to the publications of those wealthy enough to afford the necessary  technology.  Likewise, search results are determined by the commercial interests of computer manufactures and engine advertisers.  Although the voice of individual divergent voices may be located upon the Internet, they are not easily assessable to the general public.  Instead of discovering a homespun information storehouse of unique ideas, the today’s “internet explorer” encounters a network nearly as homogenous and commercial as more established forms of mass communication such as radio and television.

The greatest challenge to web designers of the present is to release the web from commercial domination.   The Internet has the capacity to connect individual voices from around the (physical and economic) globe.  At relative low cost (in comparison to print publication and television air time) unique visions can reach a massive audience.  The roots of the World Wide Web are firmly planted in universal interactivity.  The conceptual designers (see W3) of the Internet structured the information sharing system such that all formatted information would be available for exchange.    The programming principle of the Internet assures the technological free publication of information for the duration of its existence.   Commercial, moral, and political interests however threaten the freedom of accessibility.  In the fifth year of the millennium and second decade of the Internet, the most pressing concern of programmers is to defend the principles of universality upon which free information networking was founded.


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