The Birth of the World Wide Web
Fifty years ago, in response to the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik, the U.S. military set up the Advanced Research Projects Agency. It would become the cradle of connectivity, spawning the era of Google and YouTube, of Amazon and Facebook, of the Drudge Report and the Obama campaign. Each breakthrough, – network protocols, hypertext, the World Wide Web, the browser, – inspired another as narrow-tied engineers, long-haired hackers, and other visionaries built the foundations for a world-changing technology.
The Last Word
Communication always changes society, and society was always organized around communication channels. Two hundred years ago it was mostly rivers. It was sea-lanes and mountain passes. The Internet is another form of communication and commerce. And society organizes around the channels.
Co-founder, Sun Microsystems
At the beginning there was a different attitude than today. Now everyone is concerned about making money, or reputation. It was different then. We all wanted to help one another. There was no competition, really, on most things. It was a total open flow of information. There were no games.
Electrical Engineer, Conceived one of the Internet’s building blocks
How Software Shapes Democracy
As more and more political debate takes place online, the software that hosts our conversations have come under fire for exacerbating polarization, spreading fake news and harassment. The quality of democracy has unquestionably been undermined, but to understand how we must examine each platform separately.
This article explores how three prominent platforms shape the public conversation by examining how their affordances – the actions they make possible – each generate a different social dynamic. The dynamic on Facebook, for example, is not unlike a school cafeteria, where likeminded people group together in suspicious isolation of other groups. Twitter, on the other hand, resembles a crowded public square where the size of the throng can often result in antisocial behavior. Wikipedia is akin to the world’s largest library, both in the scale of the information and in the rules that govern behaviour inside.
The insights generated help equip us to improve the quality of democracy as the internet expands political participation. Governments, citizens and technologists all have a role to play in adapting what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “art of associating together” to the digital age
Ecosystem of Fake
When Tim Berners-Lee hoped for an internet to collaborate and share information, he probably didn’t have fake news or the weaponization of information in mind.
We might talk about today’s information as something more than a “Russian thing” one day. The events we are witnessing appear to be akin to Martin Luther’s ushering in a dramatic new way of thinking about the world. But the revelations and online chicanery spilling out of the 2016 US Election alone could prove to be the 95 theses wake up call for the titans of technology.
While the term fake news makes for catching headlines and even chosen as the Collins Dictionary word of the year for 2017, we’re disregarding it. We echo the same concerns recently put forward by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan that the term is being “appropriated by politicians around the world to describe news organizations whose coverage they find disagreeable. In this way, it’s becoming a mechanism by which the powerful can clamp down upon, restrict, undermine, and circumvent the free press”