This article is the product of my efforts to elevate my understanding of the impact of communications technology to a higher level of confusion.
For convenience, I use the term “Web” to encompass all forms of communications and entertainment technology and software–the Internet, social media, cable, satellite, new media, e-mail, mobile devices, laptops, desktops, notebooks, cell phones, mobile networks, ipods, etc.
NEWS ON THE WEB
Clearly one of the largest impacts of the Web has been on how we get our news.
With a few clicks of a mouse or a search from a mobile device, we can access news sources from around the world. Moreover, it is a bilateral exchange if readers post comments to what they read, making traditional letters to the editor somewhat archaic. Add the proliferation of online equivalents of classified ads (e.g. eBay or craigslist) and you have a print newspaper industry struggling to survive and traditional radio and TV scrambling for multiple outlets on the Internet and mobile services.
I’ll leave the future of the print industry and electronic news media to others to explore, except to note that the forces of the Web are affecting not only how we get our news, but from whom.
Blogs and community bloggers (paid and unpaid) have been a growing source of news at all levels.
In recognition of this trend at the community level, the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California, Berkeley is conducting a workshop in March “… for journalists and others who are…becoming independent publishers of specialty blogs and hyperlocal community news sites that play a central role in the emerging news and information landscape.” (See Changing times in journalism and media!)
Petaluma’s Frances Rivetti (Sonoma Country Life) will be one of the participants in the UC workshop.*
COPING WITH THE WEB
The Web has extended the reach of our human experience…
If you have a question, you GOOGLE it.
- If you need to research a service provider or contractor, you check with ANGIE.
- If you want to sell or buy something, you go to the AMAZON or check with CRAIG.
- If you have a few moments to reflect, you can read your FACEBOOK.
- If your tooth turns blue, you see a dentist. If your BLUETOOTH malfunctions, you go to RadioShack.
- If you go out to eat, you may TEXT your friends or send TWEETS on your TWITTER between courses.
- When you get home, you may YELP about your experience–if you did not already do so during desert.
- Even better, if you go to a SPEED DATING session, you may do all the above in ten minutes or less!
- If you get lost coming home from your speed date, you can GPS.
- After arriving home, you may turn on your 50-inch LED flat screen and watch four shows simultaneously on one screen courtesy of ATT&T U-verse TV .
I wonder, however, if ordinary mortals don’t need a workshop on how to cope with the avalanche of information and communication. By my observation, it has become an all-consuming task for many, if not a lifestyle.
Many, if not most, coffee shops I frequent have free Web access and are often filled with people communing with their laptops or mobile devices. Few are conversing with each other.
The “need” to communicate and to be constantly connected to the Web has almost become pathological based on examples from my experience…
Cell phone calls from stalls in public restrooms
Calls to the office from a trail in Arches National Park while complaining about the lousy signal
Two men on a trail in the Muir Woods (cyborg phones in their ears), texting away and muttering, “I can’t get a signal!”
Teenagers in any size group walking down the street with their eyes fixed on their mobile screens
Our job as “consumers” of media is to sort through it all–or to ignore it if we so elect. It would be helpful to have some guidelines to assist in this sorting process–with perhaps a touch of instruction on the use of practical critical thinking in judging what we see and hear.
This is all well and good for those of us who know, or should know, when to turn it off and return to the “real” world. However, what about those whose life experiences and reference points are only Web based? Endless streams of information and data do not produce understanding, much less wisdom.
Many years ago, Marshall McCluhan commented on the societal impact of television with his famous–The medium is the message. However, what I fear now is a Web medium that is fracturing into an infinite number of voices–infinite until each and every soul on this planet has a Facebook page.
- Could it be that we are headed for a society where relationships with avatars are more important than relationships with humans?
- Is virtual reality the coming reality?
A TWEET FROM WORDSWORTH?
If William Wordsworth were alive today instead of the 19th century, perhaps he would have expressed his famous lament about materialism in a tweet such as this…
The Web is too much with us, late and soon
Our hearts now gone for a downloaded tune!
Texting & Tweeting, we lay waste our perceptual
For little we see that is not simply virtual
When we have gone too far and virtual is actual!
The Web is too much with us…
Drive Our Cars
To the Bars
*Update 3:48 p.m. March 1. 2010. Frances Rivetti posted Revelations of an Ever Evolving Web News Frontier, which addresses many of the issues raised in this article.