Recently I found an interesting article by Hossein Derakhshan titled ‘The Web We Have to Save‘. Hossein was sentenced to jail because he blogged on Iran-related topics and motivated other Iranians to start blogging. After he spend six years in jail, he was abruptly pardoned and freed. During the time in jail he actually missed major events like social media and the raise of companies like Facebook, Instragram, WhatsApp, Youtube, etc. Thus, he was confronted with a major shift how the Web developed so far and it is used today.
In his article he elaborates on his experiences with social media and compares the current usage of the Web with the one he used to know. He argues that a few social media companies dominate the way and type of information people access over the Internet. Hossein criticizes the vast devaluation of the hyperlink because the major social media companies constrain the usage of links on their platforms. Some of them are even constrain the usage of external links and manipulate user traffic to stick to their platform. He concludes that we experience a decline of diversity and opinions on the Web today.
Although Hossein’s experience and conclusion isn’t new – I’m observing the same movement for a while – I really think that he put this development brilliantly into words. I share his observations but I’m not sure about the magnitude of this trend. Maybe I’m biased in favour of information technology because that was (and still is) the main motivation for me to get access to some network and share information, experiences, software, games, knowledge etc. with people around the world. I still remember the 1980s when this access was only provided by some local bulletin board systems (BBS) and companies like CompuServe. Meanwhile the technologies evolved, especially the Internet and Web led to disruptive changes in almost every domain.
‘Information at your fingertips‘ was concept that was presented by Bill Gates initially in 1994. Today, I think this concept is real but the current Web is developing even beyond the fundamental idea behind this concept. Nowadays we can access so much information that we need dedicated technologies like search engines, data analysis tools, etc. to guide us through the vast amount of information. Otherwise there is still so much valuable information (and therefore knowledge too) available in books, journals, newspapers, etc. that is not directly accessible via the Internet or Web.
In addition to Hossein’s observations, I think of two related trends. First, information that is not available on the Internet or Web, is assumed to not exist. Therefore, it is simply ignored and sometimes concepts, ideas, etc. are developed twice without any notice. I’ve observed this attitude in the domain of computer science and particularly information systems management. Second, the proliferation of information doesn’t correlate with the quality of information. The quality of information is, of course, defined by the consumer but overall I wonder whether really all the information has some value. I’m specifically thinking of all the data that is produced and uploaded on social media platforms. Nevertheless, at least the ad industry is paying a lot of money for such data… On the other hand, I really believe that there is value in technologies like for example big data or the Internet of Things that isn’t directly related to advertising.
In summary, I draw the following conclusions. First, respect the free Internet/Web and appreciate the freedom of speech and opinion. Don’t take both for granted. There’s still restriction, censorship and arbitrariness. Second, consider the existing knowledge beyond the Web. Each domain has, of course, its own history and nature of knowledge sources. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the Web is definitely not the only one. Third, support the communication and collaboration beyond the major social media companies and therefore the freedom of links. There is something beyond those social media platform. Fourth, I should revive my blog. Although it’s not dealing with political topics, it supports all the conclusions mentioned above. Of course, the scope is focussed on the domain of architectural change management but that’s fine. Therefore, subscribe and watch out for updates!
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