The Internet - truth and consequences

Because I back-traced it.
And you've been reported to cyber police.
Because I back-traced it.
Consequences will never be the same.
Because I back-traced it.
And you've been reported to cyber police.
Because I back-traced it.
You'll be arrested. End of conversation.

(comment #113)
: Remember when we couldn't get backtraced and the consequences were always the same? Good times....

I can't find the "We didn't start the flame war" video anymore. (There are newer versions, but they don't match the original.) Besides being a catchy tune, it was a wonderful illustration of the wit, vulgarity, hatred, bullying and whimsy that coexists in popular comment threads.

The video above - which I feel only slightly guilty for posting - comes from the tail end of a short, sharp online drama where an under-parented girl got caught acting too old and tough, and then picking fights, on some of the darker stretches of the Internet highway.

Her antics - including issuing death threats and posting wanna-be sexy photos - became public or popular or something, and then drew critics. A flame war between herself and the anonymous Internet heated up, eventually waking her parents from their slumber. They took it all to a morning TV show - apparently confusing television for real life - and, later, Dad went online with this rant, and well....

At this point, you gotta be thinking "Just unplug, man!" Sadly, no. That was a step too far. She was soon back online, apparently none the worse for wear - and certainly no wiser. Opines the Internets, "Why her parents didn't set fire to her computer right then and there will forever be one of life's mysteries, and probably a better question for the Child Services to waste time on."

The Internet is not your friend.

But it may be a series of tubes.

This mash-up of a poor U.S. politician trying to explain this newfangled out-of-control online business shows the power of the Internet to capture and re-present ideas and efforts, making one look either heroic or goofy. And, once again, cruelty and bullying abound. Friends don't let friends become part of an Internet meme.

But then, the Internet isn't your friend.

Anyone doubt it? Go read Boxxy's story.

"Boxxy" is the screen name of a young woman nearly undone by stuff that was, well, not even her doing as far I as can see. Unlike the girl above, she didn't threaten to "pop a glock" on her critics. She just posted a couple of vids (mixed to make the one above) that crossed into the junior highschool dimension of the world wide web. Luckily, she did have enough sense to get off-line.

I'm thinking about this - about the problems with the Internet - because, in a couple of weeks, I'm going to need to make some choices about how to use or allow this powerful, often mean-hearted, machine in an adult classroom.

Set aside the virus / malware issues (though these are real enough). Most blogs and online magazines or newspapers are harmless. Goggle Earth, the weather networks, and things like NASA TV are self-evidently useful.

Yet, I'm tempted to throw it all away just to avoid having to deal with policing Facebook or YouTube (or JustinTV or TVShack or UStream).

There are thoughtful, useful pieces about YouTube and it's kin. I'm thinking of Open Culture's post "70 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube" or the video "The Machine is (Changing) Us: YouTube and the Politics of Authenticity" by Michael Wesch et al.

Wesch also presents the masterful "An anthropological introduction to YouTube" but, sadly, his mastery doesn't still my doubts and worries. People talk about online learning all the time in this business, but I haven't yet seen the conversation I need to figure out a plan for the fall.

Then there's Google and Verizon talking with U.S. lawmakers about handing the (U.S.) web over to corporations to control as they see fit. That turns this 2006 parody (made by Google in opposition an earlier, similar attempt by Verizon) into a pretty good example of Google's 2010 position on the right of big business to control access to information and entertainment:

If that doesn't want you to strike a blow for Internet freedom....

In 2006, the same year Google made the above video, Time magazine named "You" (i.e., the online community) Person of the year. Time's Lev Grossman wrote, "Sure, it's a mistake to romanticize all this any more than is strictly necessary."

Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.

But that's what makes all this interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas.

That was then. This is now. And now is 2010, folks. We're all online.

Consequences will never be the same.



EJ said...

There is no escaping the internet and cost effective training solutions like elearning online. What we need is a greater understanding of how it works and how it can affect us adversely and positively to reap the full benefits.

Wendell said...

EJ, I don't disagree. :)