Digital Media- Key Reading, ‘The Shock of Inclusion’

The article ‘The shock of Inclusion’ by Clay Shirky discusses ideas around a larger sharing community and audience through the development and increase of the Internet. At first glance the article appears to be focused on the publishing world and newspapers, and the impact the internet has had on authorship, but the article also looks at how people react in this digital world where there are no limitations or barriers for contribution and participation with regards to the information that is accessible on the online world.

The article begins by looking at both ‘advantages (dramatically improved access to information, very large scale collaborations) and disadvantages (interrupt-driven thought, endless distractions)’ to the use of the Internet, looking at its value in relation to its negatives, Shirky questions ‘whether access to Wikipedia outweighs access to tentacle porn’ in relation to the idea of the Internet’s value. I questioned, that surely it is the decision of each individual as to how they use the Internet, each person would value different parts greater than others; for example an academic would value the Google Scholar section a lot greater than someone from the music industry who would value Youtube greatly. I do not believe that there can be a right or a wrong when it comes to internet use as to whether it is useful and of value or whether it isn’tas for each individual it is personal to them.

There is no questioning as to how brilliant the Internet is, but as each day goes by it becomes bigger, full of more information, more users and more rubbish. As a user of the Internet is is important we are aware of this ‘rubbish’ and consider the way we filter and sort the information we read. Due to the nature of the Internet now, it is much more accessible to people and allows greater freedom; participation has increased with people able to put across their points and views as well as information; looking at this now vast amount of data and information from people around the world, how do we filter and sort the correct information from the crap?

Wikipeadia is a platform that allows public authorship. Anyone can sign up for an account and begin to publish articles and ‘edit’ information on existing articles. An extreme example of this ‘editing’ by an individual can be found in the article ‘Revenge, ego and the corruption of Wikipedia‘; the article tells of a case study where one individual changed information about another in a act of resentment. These changes could be seen as extreme, but even though the changes were not true they were still allowed to be published; the article states that ‘anyone can edit Wikipeadia’ and this is a prime example, showing how the site is a public authored site. Universities do not consider Wikipeadia to be a reliable source when researching and referencing, and there is no wonder when you read examples like the one above, how would people know what is and isn’t true?

This idea of the truth on the Internet, links to some of the ideas we looked at during our ‘Knowledge is Power’ lecture; looking at the vast amount of information now and how do we filter this? It was considered that if when reading some information online and it chimes with our beliefs we will believe if, however if if is the other way around we will try to disprove it, if something seems to be true it is a lot easier to accept it and believe it than to consider the other possibilities. However as online users you should always be aware of the information your are reading and question its truth and reliability, using a filter to sort through the crap can allow us to get the truth.

This leads on the idea that we are in a filter bubble, we filter the information we trust/like and ignore the rest. In the digital world, Google knows what we like from what we have searched before, and so it filters our searches to match our previous internet history, for example two people searching for the same thing on Google would receive different website results depending on their internet history. This filter bubble can be useful with regards to being targeted more for each individual however it can also have its draw backs and possibly show only ‘one side of a story’ or ignore other areas of the online world that may interest us but we have never experienced them before and so our filter would not include them.

The ideas around public authorship and how the online would has become more participatory has led to a greater amount of information, however because there is so much of this information a lot of it can be seen as bullshit; the article ‘Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection‘ by Neil Postman looks into the idea of how there is a lot of bullshit around theses days and it is important that we are taught how to sort through the crap to find the important information. The article looks at different categories regarding bullshit, looking at different ideas and beliefs; an example of one of these categories is Fanaticism, in which an individual believes their point of view is right and that they can’t take challenges to that well. Even though these categories cover different aspects of bullshit, the article later goes on to say how bullshit should be considered in a more complex way rather than just a group of categories; the article states that ‘each person’s crap detector is embedded in their value-system’, these values shape our beliefs and without them it is difficult to identify what is right and what is wrong, this idea links back to my previous point when sorting and filtering information.

With so much information out there now, and numerous authors, another possible negative impact could be an increase of plagiarism. People have a vast amount of information at their finger tips allowing them to get quick answers, it has become a lot easier for people to simply copy information offline for their own use or to take credit for other peoples work. Even though it can be seen as easier to plagiarise now in this digital era, finding the information worth copying can be a long and difficult process due to the array of Internet hoaxes and mistrustful information; once again linking back to the idea of what information can be trusted.

When reading the article one thing that stood out to me personally was the impact inclusion and participation would have on digital industries such as photography; with greater access online to information regarding these industries, through the sharing of online tutorials for example, it is questions that surely anyone can do the job now, meaning the need for digital professionals is no longer. There are many more amateur photographers now, and people have access to more technology, meaning the work of ‘professional’ photographers is not as valued and so the line between professional and amateur has become blurred.

Towards the end of the article a question is posed, ‘How is the internet changing the way we think?’ The response from Shirky, ‘too soon to tell’; at the moment it is hard to tell any major effects the Internet has had on us, there are small changes that, but also ‘because the deep changes will be manifested only when new cultural norms shape what the technology makes possible. Shirky goes on to say how he doesn’t claim to ‘predict the future’ or make guesses on what the future holds for public sharing and the effect it will have on the way we think,  is a way of demonstrating the importance of time, and that we just have to wait and see.

Currently we may think we know how much the Internet has affected our lives such as making things easier, but the internet will continue to develop over time, in my lifetime alone it has changed a lot, who knows what will happen in the next 20 years? We should not begin to guess about how it is going to affect the way we think as a whole, instead we should look at the smaller changes that we have seen already since the Internets existence; for example many appreciate how outstanding the Internet is, yet many others now use it every day without giving it a second thought and just take it for granted as part of our lives. The internet has changed the way we search for information as there is no longer a need to go to the library as most information can be found online now. The internet allows a distraction from ‘real-life’ allowing people to escape into the virtual world, linking to ideas of online gaming and avatars created to ‘be someone different’. The use of social media can be seen to have an effect on the way we communicate, we no longer pick up the phone, it is now quicker to drop a quick message and get an instant response; this ‘real time’ communication through the internet has also affected the way we talk, slang words and abbreviations are used to save time, they have become part of our life so much so that ‘Oxford English Dictionary adds text lingo to online site‘. It is clear that the internet has had an impact on our lives, however we should not, like Shirky said, try to predict the future, and decide now exactly what the impact had and will be, instead embrace the changing technological world, whilst also being aware of issues that arise from it.

Bibliography:

Shirky. C (2012) ‘The Shock of Inclusion’: article found http://edge.org/q2010/q10_1.html

Ferguson, Tessa. ‘Oxford English Dictionary Adds Text Lingo To Online Site | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University’. ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Postman. N ‘Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection’ article found: https://criticalsnips.wordpress.com/2007/07/22/neil-postman-bullshit-and-the-art-of-crap-detection/

Salon.com,. ‘Revenge, Ego And The Corruption Of Wikipedia’. N.p., 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

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