Some questions/comments about the latest reading...
First, a sort of pedagogical question. I am very fascinated by the ongoing merger of formerly separate media into a single machine, but I wonder to what extent is this kind of investigation an academically viable line of inquiry as opposed to sci-fi claptrap? Hasn't all such speculation proven fantastically wrong before? Don't academics have enough to do arguing over the past and the present?
When I was a freshman (a decade ago) I went to a lecture given by a visiting prof. called "Cities of the Future." Much to my surprise, the guy spent 95% of his time talking about past stages of city development (Chicago-style, then LA sprawl), and only in the last couple minutes did he say anything about the future, which was(ironically, since we just read about similar bad projections from 20 years ago) that new information technologies would make it unnecessary for people to live in cities.
I appreciated the quote toward the end of the reading about Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine. I think Franklin would have seen the Internet as the public library on steroids. Or wanted to make it into that. Another historical figure I like to think about is William Blake. I can't decide if he'd absolutely love all these new technologies and show us what can really be done with it all, or whether he'd find it far more monstrous than he found the printing press (which he rejected as inherently limiting the imagination). Flip a coin, I don't know.
Below Emily asks whether anyone is attempting to record the changes that web sites undergo (to track the "aw, shucks" iterations of irs.gov or the many disappearances from whitehouse.gov whenever they decide they want to erase any record of having said stupid or inconvenient things). There is. It's called archive.org, and they try to take a snapshot of the Internet every 24 hours. They can't do the whole thing, I think, but they do exceed google's reach, although in fairness they make no attempt to organize things like google does.
Below Anna questions the hope that some commentators attach to computers and the Internet. I don't hold out hope in the short run for any big pay-offs, but over time I am optimistic because I think these technologies (at least until the FCC goes and ruins them) are fundamentally less passive and one-sided. Because it is so much easier for people to express themselves and be heard, I have this idea that these technologies can encourage a more involving and less hierarchical society. But that is of course rank speculation. We could all go from bowling alone to virtually bowling alone on yahoo games. (Somebody online just recommended that I try yahoo pool of all things.)
See y'all in class.