Today is Internaut Day! It marks 25 years of public Internet access and recognition of the ground-breaking World Wide Web (WWW) work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the results of which have had profound global impact and changed the way that we live. It is this aspect – the impact on our lives, that I want to focus on and celebrate in this brief article.
The web has bridged distance through telepresence. We can ‘be there’ without really being there. Relationships have been maintained or formed through the Internet, and the emotive essence of dialogue has been strengthened through visual contact that goes far beyond the written or spoken word. Isolation has been transformed into a sense of belonging, community, and shared social experiences – the world has indeed become a smaller place where we have become virtual neighbours.
The web has changed how we work. Work is no longer a place that we necessarily ‘go to’, it’s what ‘we do’. Consequently, new patterns of how we work have emerged. Spaces morph – places of leisure become places of work and vice versa, and those places of work become decorporealised into a federation of physical and virtual fragments where the work ‘place’ can be accessed as long you have an Internet connection. The reach of the Internet and the decorporealisation of work enables reach into a workforce that would otherwise be difficult – it brings a true meaning to the word, ‘inclusive’
The web has changed how we learn. It has become our tutor, our encyclopaedia, and in many cases our first port of call when we need to know. The immediacy of information access accelerates the process of knowledge development – and knowledge is the keystone in a knowledge-based economy, where what we know is perhaps more valued than other skills and attributes. Education has become more accessible and inclusive than ever before. Around the world it has allowed individuals to develop their knowledge and enabled host societies and communities to move forward – the divide between knowing and not knowing has been reduced. Every place has become a place of learning as connections and access to the Internet have become a common part of life.
The web has enabled voices to be heard. From the individual voice that needs the occasional virtual soap box to the vox pop that represents critical mass of thought and opinion – it has become our sounding board and our amplifier. Sometimes the world listens, and sometimes it responds. It has created a virtual platform where all citizens can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with politicians and leaders to engage in constructive debate through accessible channels.
The web has changed how we value space. In addition to valuing the worth of real estate in conventional terms we also now value in terms of connections. The real estate may, in those conventional terms, be extremely valuable but if you are disconnected in a connected world then that space is of no value to you – the feeling and reality of disconnection is perhaps too much to bear. Thus we think about the world around us in new ways. We consider the ‘space of flows’ (Castells) in contemporary ways – in ways that are fundamental to the digital citizen and a new society.
I’m going to leave the final word of this article to the Black Eyed Peas and their ‘Now Generation’ lyrics. You can look them up on the web…
Happy Internaut Day!