Berners-Lee: More study of WWW needed

Tim Berners-Lee, the closest thing we have to an “inventor” of the web as we know it today, is calling for more integrated, broad studies of the internet rather than the mostly piecemeal academic work being done now.     He’s right.   The internet is arguablly the most profound change in human communication in history, and it’s just getting started.    As social networking explodes into the dominant socializing mechanism for humans we are experiencing many new opportunities and many challenges, especially as the online environments create new relationships between people, generations, and cultures.

Universities would be well advised to heed this call from Berners-Lee and offer more “web centric” courses, but more importantly academics should be spending a lot more time studying the complex, changing structure of the web.  The technical aspects of the internet are fairly well studied in commercial circles.   The sociological side is  poorly/rarely studied in academia and the commercial sector is still struggling to understand the implications of the massive shift of human activity online.   

3 thoughts on “Berners-Lee: More study of WWW needed

  1. Net Neutrality/censorship/moderation issues may seem trite or passe in some quarters of the blogopolis. I contend, however, that intelligent bloggers (regardless of where they sit on the political divide) should take in interest in keeping blog communication free and as unmoderated as possible. That doesn’t mean allowing every crackpot or wannabe-Gonzo scribbler to rant about his favorite porn stars or to spew obscenities about politicians: it means permitting rational dissent of all types, however unpleasant.

    Big name sites, even liberal ones, have to a large extent succeeded in turning the Net into a paranoia Zone, where various J-Edgar wannabes (even some DNCocrats) censor and moderate comments at will . ON a site such as DailyKOS merely to question the substance of a “regular’s” diary generally will earn a “troll-rating” (“troll” itself arguably one of the Net’s most potent forms of Doublespeak).

    The same sort of paranoia may be noted on smaller blogs. On “New Worlds”, for instance, the regs enforce a Bay Area variety of faux-liberalism with a heavy hand (one might call it “Feinsteinism”). By merely questioning the integrity or political aspirations of say Obama (or even Hillary) on NW, a commenter risks being branded with a “troll” badge, if not banned and given a virtual swastika.

    Indeed violations of writers’ ethics occur regularly all over the Net. Words are taken out of context, commenters who can’t respond are insulted (because of rightist moderation policies), and regs rely on predictable ad homs, identity politics, and insinuations. That sort of fratboy- like atmosphere should be opposed by responsible bloggers.

    Responsible bloggers–ones who believe that blogs may result in some political good—also might consider Net-wide anti-moderation policies, and perhaps a cyber First Amendment. Barring that, the J-Edgars–if not Goebbels and Bukharins–will most likely take over and SnitchNet will become the rule.

  2. Several excellent points Horatiox – I like the idea of of a “Cyber First Amendment” which would help clarify the blurry lines. The Troll thing is indeed a contradiction at some blogs, and often is used to bully away a person who is smarter than the community at large, asking questions they don’t like.

    Ironically commercial speech seems to incur far more wrath than anything else. Most of the tech blogs will tolerate a lot of mean-spirited abuse but will often censor even the slightest mention of a commercial concern.

  3. The Troll thing is indeed a contradiction at some blogs, and often is used to bully away a person who is smarter than the community at large, asking questions they don’t like.

    Yeah. Those who have been in this game since, like, Windows 95, and recall the old newsgroups and flame wars, etc. might remember that “troll” was a hacker term: a troll played tricks, spread misinformation, or perhaps in a nastier form downloaded viruses via links or .exe files. They were troublemakers–not merely dissenters or radicals. It wasn’t really a political term, as far as I can recall.

    ON a site such as DailyKOS, “troll” now is used for like “one not in the Democrats,” or perhaps not par-tay material: it has an ideological connotation. Even the Kossacks equivocate, however. Scrolling through some of the mud-slinging fests between Hillary and Obama supporters, one notes both sides awarding troll-ratings to the other:
    “Oh, you don’t agree with me?–Take a troll-rating!” (and the predictable cockroach brownie recipes or something follow). It’s like an endless BS session between some drunken liberal-fratboys and a few PC-sorority gals chiming in on occasion:

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