All three articles dealt with control of cyberspace and the content on it but the thing that stood out for me was Rushkoff’s article. What he basically says is that major companies are trying (with al lot of success) to turn the Internet into a one way portal where goods/information are given to viewers. By doing this the companies hope to control the distribution outlets from where these goods/information is traded. This, in Rushkoff’s mind is bad news because the Internet is about two way communication and growth. By hindering this part of the Net we are not allowed to evolve.
The above point is very valid and the way he writes is poignantly lyrical, canvassing his opinion in beautiful language. But it made me wonder about my communications major because in many ways, I’m being trained to be the big company he warns about. I learn everyday how to decode the signals and trends going on around me. This skill can be used to ride the waves of the market, influence public opinion and to stop positive change if it was economically beneficial. Aren’t these the alarm bells Rushkoff talks about when he says, “Coercion and influence are simply the pushing of a fixed point of view. In this sense, the coercer is promoting death.”?
On the other, I believe Rushkoff is illuminating the reality of the situation. For those of us who gain the skills to influence, it is our responsibility to become aware of the potential to stop positive change and use these tools for the betterment of all. Rushkoff states, “Because the chief agents of change are interaction and communication, these will be the activities that the enemies of evolution will want to keep in check”. In others words, in order for us to fight for evolution we must utilize the Internet’s ability to interact and communicate.
However, the staple of today’s online world where interaction and communication are utilized is social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs (to mention but a few). Is he implying that we create more sites like these that further interaction and communication? Because if he is, I think it could help fight the Internet from turning into a “shopping mall” but where is the incentive?
On the monetary side there is still a lack of economic incentive for people to create these sites. For example, while blog sites do offer some creative ways to earn income from user popularity, the reality is that only a very small number are able to achieve this. Even for those who do get some money from their blogs, most of the time the earnings pale in comparison to the amount of man hours one puts into a blog. So the question I’m asking is why put thousands of man hours into something that will most likely have a minimal return in monetary value, if any at all?
The immediate response to my own question is that people receive personal value from getting feed back from their blog posts. People feel like they are listened to and enjoy the social environment. However, the only way to fight back agianst the “coercers” is to start sites like facebook where interaction is opened up to huge volumes of users. But from what I hear, facerbook is earning some money from it’s advertisements but this is not yielding a profit margin that major investors are looking for (I could be wrong on this point).
What I am trying to say is that we need big companies to find ways to spur spending on the net and if this means a loss in communication/interaction then so be it. Especially in these hard economic times we need create new ways to spur economic growth. Therefore, companies finding out our habits and utilizing this knowledge is not always a bad thing. So maybe me joining a big company and finding ways to use the communication skills I learned at Fordham to "trick" the public into giving up their cash is alright. In the end, who says there can’t be a balance between big company influence and the communication/interaction that the Internet was built on.