Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Sad Story of the Internet

The death of John Perry Barlow – cyberlibertarian, founder member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, sometime Grateful Dead lyricist, and much more (check out his Wikipedia entry) – got me thinking about two things, aside from mortality. One was of course the Grateful Dead; the other was how much the online world has changed since those heady days when Barlow and his fellow techno-utopians could envision the internet as 'a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity'. If only.
 I came relatively late to the online world, with little idea of what I was doing, but in retrospect I realise I took the plunge at the best possible moment, when blogs, in all their magnificent, sometimes mad individuality, were riding high. Before, that is, the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest. Not only did (and do) blogs offer superior content, they are also, by their very nature, resistant to centralised control – of the kind exerted by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and happily incapable of doing the damage wrought unceasingly by fatuous Twitterstorms, online harassment and shaming. Blogs generate only small, loose networks, whereas, by sharing and retweeting, newer social media can create networks of almost unlimited size, sending cascading waves of hysteria spreading across the echo chamber of cyberspace in less time than it takes to think.
 Blogs, it seems, are now decidedly vieux jeu, an oldsters' playground, too close to the essay form for today's frantic, pixellated world, and this seems to me very sad. The golden age of the blog was the golden age of the internet, and it was all too brief. (My own steadily declining stats tell the story all too clearly, not that it bothers me much – I care more about who my readers are than how many.)
 But never mind all that – here's a fine Grateful Dead song for which the late John Perry Barlow wrote the lyrics...



9 comments:

  1. Sure Nige, the complexity of life is far better captured in a blog piece and your blog is excellent. I've run a closed group on FB, though, for two years with no interference at all from the guys in Menlo Park. We've more or less been able to say what we like. And, with me, you can probably imagine, it's by no means mainstream.

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  2. I'm sticking with you, Mr Nigeness.

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  3. Good and valid points. Difficulty with blogs is that they are actually hard to locate. On FB the finding comes at you!

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  4. Keep at it Nige. I'm sure there are plenty of us who enjoy having the odd thought provoked by you. In any case you can rest assured that there is some corner of a foreign computer which will remain forever Nigeness (or at least 2 or 3 times a week when I check the blog)

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  5. I check it every day just in case there's something, so hope you can keep on keeping on. Thanks.

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  6. Thanks everybody - Don't worry, I'm keeping on keeping on...

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