Here Comes the AcademyBeware: coming to a university near you, the Department of Internet Studies Department. (Redundancy not optional.) We will now have innumerable papers written by people with axes to grind about how the web is good for you, or not, or good for society, or not ~ and what laws should be passed to make sure that it's good for you and for society. Quoth Eli Noam, Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Columbia (brace yourselves):
He warned that currently the net is not breaking down barriers and flattening social structures.
By contrast, he said, it was centralising and concentrating information into the hands of smaller groups.
"We need academics to be leaders not cheerleaders," he said.
"We must save the internet from its founding myth that it is good for democracy and is open and cannot be regulated."
Is that the way it seems to you? I certainly do not subscribe to the perspective that says that the web has made the world's information flow more centralized and inaccessible than it was before.
The crux of academic anxiety can be seen in this quotation from Andrew Graham, Master of Balliol College:
How do we learn fast enough so that we are learning faster than the world changes?" asked Mr Graham, "if we are not learning faster than the world changes then we cannot possibly control it."
Ah yes, control. Well, I say to them, good luck. Control would imply that centralized authority that you all seemed so concerned about just a quotation ago. I guess it's okay if it's your enlightened control, eh?
Oxford has established a new institute for the study of the 'net:
Last week saw the inaugural conference of the Oxford Internet Institute, one of the world's first research centres dedicated to studying the net and its social consequences....
Delegates to the conference urged it to get involved with net lobby groups and policy writers rather than just be a dry, detached research group.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly feel that the internet is worthy of study. And I'm all in favor of people having opinions and acting upon them. I'm just disappointed that the overall reaction here seems to be just that, fearful and reactionary.
[sorry, my bad: via BBC News]