Thursday, May 12, 2011

Da' Web(s).

Tim Berners-LeeI have just finished reading Siva Vaidhyanathan's book The Googlization of Everything (and why we should worry) (Pub. 2011) while also concurrently reading Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web (Pub. 1999). This combination made for a interesting sort of Internet-as-past and the future-of-the-Web and where is it all going type of thoughts.

The vision that Tim Berners-Lee outlines toward the end of Weaving the Web directly connects and present an interesting backdrop to read in juxtaposition with the Googlization of everything that Siva Vaidhyanathan lays out. Equally compelling is Vaidhyanathan's vision for the Human Knowledge Project where he proposes an international group of involved and concerned citizens take responsibility for the judicial care and access to the world's information rather than leaving that assignment to corporate entities claiming benevolence. Not to sound all over the top about the corporate thing but seeing/reading where Berners-Lee suggests that the early beginnings of the Web should go and where Vaidhyanathan describes where the Web is presently and surmises where it might be heading, there is a certain quandary about who or what is actually driving the development of the Web now and what that means for our daily Internet use/access and other parts of living. Really the Internet/Web has not quite ended up the free place that Berners-Lee calls for. While there is still a good chunk of this there are corporate entities that one do it better Google or lock out those things which they view as detrimental to their bottom line. (Comcast started blocking PirateBay, again.) Berners-Lee writes that "the Web must allow equal access to those in different economic and political situations; those who have physical or congitive disabilities; those of different cultures; and those who use different languages with different characters that read in different directions across a page." (P. 165) And it seems we've has accomplished this through the use of and reliance on corporations such as Google whom serve " an embedded guide to navigating choices, associations, tastes, and the world around us." (Vaidhyanathan 200)
It is truly fascinating to read Berners-Lee's account of the beginning of building the web as different people put servers online and the slow burn that caught on, through much sweat and blood on Tim's part, to become this massive "network of networks" called the Web. While CERN gave the Internet a place to start, it wasn't corporations that took the initiative in pushing the Web. It was people who were interested and motivated to build something that allow for different kinds of communication then were previously available. While WC3 works(ed) to suggest protocols and standards for HTML/XML content was not their issue and the Web in the late 90's was an incredibly messy, weird place. As Vaidhyanathan very nicely illustrates, Google cleaned up the Web and provided clear and safe paths throughout the Web; Google became navigational instrument, like a watch, rather than a supporting technology, like a pacemaker, that we the users have found ourselves not to be able to live without.

Siva talks about his book, corporate responsibility and Google at the Strand and at Harvard.

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