Good Morning America “and a group of experts” have declared “The Internet” one of the NEW seven wonders of the world. (Thanks to Katie Beedon for the link.) From connections between military family members half a world apart to cyberdating, the article heralds the ability of the Internet to connect people and bring them closer together in virtual space. The article mentions meetup.com, a website I had not heard of of previously that evidently started as a result of the 9-11 tragedy in the U.S. We hear a fair amount of press coverage about the dangers of students using the Internet to follow the suggestion: LMIRL, but we don’t read as many articles touting the benefits of this potential. According to the article on ABC:

More than 1 billion people use the Internet, according to Internet World Stats. That is one large neighborhood, getting more organized, polluted and interesting all the time. You can troll the Internet and find the trivial, the obscene and the beautiful. Like art, technology seems to imitate life.

This reminds me of a statement made by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1954 speech he titled, “Rediscovering Lost Values.” He observed that technology has helped make this world of ours into a neighborhood, but it is up to us to make it a brotherhood. With all the politics of hate we hear about today in the U.S. media, as well as the wars which continue to be fought in different parts of the world, I think this is more true today than ever. The above is my paraphrase of this message in his sermon. The direct quotation is:

So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man’s soul. We haven’t learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.

Technology is value-neutral. Like other tools, it can be used for good or used for evil. In our drive to help students learn more “digital literacy,” I think we also need to focus on the need for ethical decisionmaking.

This article is interesting, but I don’t think it even scratches the surface of why the Internet should be considered a wonder of the world. The access we now have to a literal world of information is mindblowing. I started listening and taking notes to Larry Lessig’s keynote at the Wizards of OS 4 conference in Germany recently, which he titled “The Read/Write Society.” (MP4 Video format) I will post more detailed notes and reflections later, but I think the sorts of things he shared and discussed should be part of any discussion about why the Internet is so transformative and amazing. As Larry notes, the fact that we are living in a read/write (RW) age and not merely a read-only (RO) age of content is fascinating and fantastic. I don’t know how many people really understand and appreciate this right now. Most people– certainly most younger people– in the developed world (I hesitate to use that term because I know it is inherently pejorative, but I’m not sure how to be more politically correct) have grown up with television and are VERY familiar with the idea of broadcast media. I am struck, after watching about one-fourth of Larry’s keynote, how excited I am about the RW aspects of Internet and digital technologies. In my view, the power and excitement of our present technological age lies much more in the democratization of media and publishing than in the fact that we have hundreds of television broadcast channels at our fingertips with a DVR to record content of interest at will. That is cool, but not nearly as cool as blogs, podcasts, and YouTube.

I agree, the Internet is a “world wonder,” and I think its possibilities and impacts upon education and society as a whole have barely begun to be imagined. This news article has a justified thesis, but I don’t think its “supporting points” are adequately developed to do justice to the amazing complexity and empowering nature of the Internet today. It not only doesn’t mention the RW Internet, it doesn’t even mention SecondLife!

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4 Responses to The Internet as a World Wonder

  1. Tom Hoffman says:

    You hadn’t heard of meetup.com?

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Well, I think I had saved it as a del.icio.us favorite some time ago, but I never really visited the site or checked out what it had to offer. So while I saw it, I don’t think it ever really got on my radar screen till now!

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Note: The comment above was posted by an anonymous web visitor– I am not deleting the comment, but do want to note the link they shared is to a disinformation site about MLK hosted by a white supremacist group (Stormfront). 🙁

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