Is it Magic?

According to Turner’s article, in the mid-1990s, the general prediction was that the Internet would create a utopia. “The Net would level social hierarchies, distribute and personalize work, and dematerialize communication, exclaimed pundits and CEOs alike.”

It is interesting to analyze this notion that the Web would, without doubt or negative consequence, improve our social condition, against what it has really done for society. It is understandable to assume that it would be a flawless, enriching resource in itself. According to Jones’s article, new technology has so much potential to improve various industries in the future. Big Think’s resident “futurist” Michio Kaku predicts that, in the next few decades, we can look forward to technology that resembles the magic we’ve only encountered in movies (invisibility cloaks and shape shifting).

But rewind back to a time before the Internet. Danah Boyd would suggest that every aspect of new media and technology that we are familiar with now seems magical when thinking about it from the perspective of someone from the mid-1990s. Whenever new media and new technology come along, we experience a cycle of wonder, adaptation, and indifference. I suspect that when the invisibility cloak comes along, it might even align with this cycle.

Certainly the Internet has changed and improved the lives of those who use it in some respect. But, are technology and the Internet creating a “harmonious electro sphere” and linking the human race, or is the “World Wide Web” linking a certain demographic of the human race? When thinking of words to describe the Internet and social networking sites, “harmonious” is nowhere near the top of my list. Sure, social networking sites have offered us great opportunities to connect and share ideas, visuals, and opinions. But to whom has the Internet offered it? What percentage of the world’s population actually has access to not only a computer, but also the Internet? The Web has connected people from different countries, but it has not dissolved the levels of social hierarchies in these countries. Maybe the opinions we need to hear most to alter our social condition are stifled by a lack of technology. For this reason, I’m not so sure that utopia can exist until we all have a way of experiencing the magic.

Kate McCarthy

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One comment

  1. The World Wide Web is certainly linking a selected demographic as oppose to linking the human race.However it can be hard to notice this distinction when this selected demographic is so diverse and very well spoken for. When we use social media we encounter so many people who have the same privilege of access as we do, if they did not then we wouldn’t be able to interact with them in the first place.

    Since we can never hear from people who do not have internet access how can we assume that the internet is linking humanity, when there is a whole demographic of people are unspoken for. Yet the internet does give the beautiful illusion that we are not only socially equal, but also connected.

    If what Michio Kaku says is true, then the future advancement of technology will only further divide the social “haves” from the “have not” thus creating, what can become the biggest social hierarchy clash of the century.

    I wonder what will become of those who can not financially keep up? Great post.

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