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Hierarchical entities that govern us, defend us, and profit from our (public) data have recently come under scrutiny for the way in which they’ve been collecting and using our data. The elements have thrived by overwhelming and embedding themselves in the network (the web). The most likely scenario is that the network (the market) will reclaim and topple the most overt hierarchies, but more subtle and nefarious forces will remain in place.
An excerpt from Long Live the Web:
The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.
If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands.
Perhaps what is most frightening is a validation that fragmentation, nationalization, and ultimately isolation, is something we desire; that we want to be closed in and controlled under some form of religion, secular humanism isn’t enough. The internet may very well enslave us.
I don’t actually believe this … but it’s really easy to by cynical about this sort of thing.
Much harder, but much more productive, is to think about how we can combat the hierarchical forces that would dominate us. The great thing about the web is it’s universality, the ability make universal connections without permission. We can leverage the web to become a force for democracy, diversity, equality, and universal empathy. The web has the potential to provide a vast virtual marketplace for information and services which be more nimble, responsive, and open than the hierarchical elements that currently dominate.
Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.