Internet = Connectivity
The Internet is an incredible facilitator. It helps humans find information, form groups around common interests, and do commerce. But the Internet is not a library, not a coffee shop, not a store; it’s just a network. But it’s a network that industrious people use to connect with each other. This function in itself is what makes the Internet the defining technology of our age.
Distributed – Connected – Associated
In his video on network literacy, prof. Howard Rheingold explains why the Internet is so powerful (Rheingold). Despite the technology, it turns out – it’s us! The greatness of the Internet is mostly in that it connects lots of people. And when people connect, stuff gets generated. People make the Internet the greatest innovations incubator ever. That’s social capital: The ease with which people can form groups. The key is all people are free to access the network equally. This is the condition under which creativity thrives on the Internet.
What Rheingold wants us to think about is: What does the Internet become if it’s not structured openly, so anyone can connect to anyone? The Internet fundamentally is a commons – a place to meet, exchange and flourish. Imagine what the Internet becomes if a small number of powerful organizations control the connectivity. The Internet would become a series of portals to access directories of corporate services. You’d still get everything you needed, but you’d get it through organized commerce. And you wouldn’t get the same creative laboratory that exists under the Internet as a commons.
The new economy
The beauty about the Internet is, by offering connectivity, it sustains and encourages human activity. The beauty about it being a commons is that everyone can collaborate with anyone. The beauty about the Net is the potential for small businesses to support one another, for people to buy from people, on their own terms and therefore bypassing bureaucracy, institutions or multinationals.
If the Net can’t be an open commons, then what worth would it have as a network?
Do you want your Internet experience to look like this web of connections? Or do you want a line connecting your node to a dozen corporate portals?
Rheingold, Howard. “Network Literacy” YouTube. Howard Rheingold: 13 Feb. 2011. Online video. 27 Sept. 2013.