Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

does anything change anything?

Marshall Poe says that “the Internet changes nothing”:

The media experts, however, tell us that there really is something new and transformative about the Internet. It goes under various names, but it amounts to “collaboration.” The Internet makes it much easier for people to do things together. Look, they say, at email discussion lists, community blogs, auction sites, product rating pages, gaming portals, wikis, and file trading services. Collaboration abounds online. That’s a fair point. But “easier” is not new or transformative. There is nothing new about any of the activities that take place on the aforementioned sites. We did them all in the Old World of Old Media. As for transformative, the evidence is thin. The basic institutions of modern society in the developed world—representative democracy, regulated capitalism, the welfare net, cultural liberalism—have not changed much since the introduction of the Internet. The big picture now looks a lot like the big picture then. . . .

Following this logic, let me also affirm that the printing press changed nothing: sure, it made making book easier, but “easier” is not new or transformative. People wrote and read books before the printing press, and they continued to write and read them afterwards. What’s the big deal?

Similarly, the internal combustion engine changed nothing. Before it was invented, we went to Grandma’s house, and even traveled from New York to Chicago — it just took a little longer. And “faster” is not new or transformative, you know.

I could go on for a while. . . . But in all seriousness, Poe makes some good points along the way. He’s just generating page views with an outrageous thesis. I bet he also advocates using federal municipal bonds to forcibly bus known Communists into your homes to Kill your puppies!

4 comments:

  • Even the truly transformational leaves some things untouched, and a lot of critics can't find their way around the existential limits of technological culture. It seems like a bug, but it isn't; *we're* the bugs.

  • Lively bugs, too!

    This is right: "Even the truly transformational leaves some things untouched." And leaves many other things altered but recognizable.

    There's a familiar implicit contrast in Poe's essay between merely "quantitative" and truly "qualitative" change, but that is almost always a false contrast. Incremental changes adding up over la longue durée are incredibly powerful.

  • I'm from greece and i couldnt read the new atlantis without the internet.also having all the human knowledge at my fingertips have a very big impact in my life..as for politics or social changes i believe we now starting to see real changes as many people has been exposed to real jurnalism and secrets around the world through the internet.i also believe that we're only at 15% of the so called ''internet revolution'' and because information technology is evolving at an exponential rate we're gonna see 100 times the change we've already seen in the last 15 years. just watch whats going on in the world today!

    Thats my point of view...sorry for any mistakes in english :-)

  • "There was no Internet Revolution and there will be no Internet Revolution," he said, on the Internet.

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