The web is in a transitional period.
Truthfully, it has always been a thing that constantly evolved. From the original text-based freenets, to initial graphics-based browsers, to a more accessible, geek-filled landscape and now plunked directly into pop culture – its forms have always changed year to year.
It’s just that right now, I feel the changes are at some tipping point. Last year, blogging became the latest “big” thing, reaching some sort of threshold causing it to go from a geeks-only hobby, to a now-expected form of communication, like email has become. There are millions of blogs, most people online keeping up at least one, if not more – whether private, public or otherwise.
This year, someone started the idea of Web 2.0 and we haven’t stopped hearing about it since. The cause of the term itself: all these crazy and interesting web services and social networking sites popping up all over the place (words chosen not necessarily descriptive of sites linked to).
The latest thing that’s really starting to pick up is the whole idea of archiving the web. Granted, Archive.org has been attempting to do this for years, however its database is limited. A quick search on some of my first websites returns only two or three results (out of probably fifteen sites I made back in the day).
Still, website content and data integrity have become hot topics these days. Even the Government of Canada, Library & Archives Canada specifically, is launching a project to archive websites they deem “important” enough to include in a perpetual archive of information.
Somewhat alarming, mostly interesting, the whole idea of documenting and keeping for prosperity all of the sheer amounts of information on the internet is mind-boggling. Of course, nobody purports to do just that yet – because honestly, what would be the value in it? But I’m sure one day, with the the advent of those tiny, cube-shaped, laser-read computer chips that are in development (I heard about them from somewhere, unfortunately can’t cite where – if anyone can give me a little more information, I’d be happy to post links and whatnot), I’m sure it’s not going to remain an impossible task.
The problem is all the crappy content, or all the content that no one cares about because it is not relevant to anyone outside their social circle (MySpace anyone?). All those low-grade reviews people write for the social networking sites about things they’ve used, read, watched or eaten… surely these people who extoll the virtues of archiving the web are not talking about that drivel. I truly hope they mean only to archive and document content with the most meaningful sources and names to back them up. That’s not to say something more grassroots like CokeWatch.org should be ignored – obviously, the sites that track large corporations and the “evildoings” of larger bodies should also be kept to counteract all the propoganda those sites pepper in the media and in their advertising. But… I wonder what system these archivers have in place for determining what content is worth keeping, and what should be ditched?
A little more difficult to distinguish than, say, printed books (assuming the printed books were carefully read and edited for quality writing and plot), versus the manuscript by someone no one’s ever heard of that would only be of interest to the person’s family. Although, in that case, a local library would likely still store handwritten papers because they could be of interest to the community. On the other hand, making those items widely available in multiple copies is much less likely to occur in that case.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. I think it’s just a feeling I’m trying to describe; that the web is on the verge between the current state and its next iteration; that soon, ubiquitous computing (the term is synonymous, to me, with constant internet access everywhere you go, something like what public radio is today) will become prevalent; and perhaps, also, at least in my vision of a better world, we’ll finally turn away from our computers for all our social needs.
Yes, you heard me.
I, who used to be the biggest geek on the planet, retreating into the depths and anonymity of cyberspace, is now advocating a great release from it. Yes, keep in touch with friends and family who are not closeby using your blogs and email. But don’t let websites like MySpace, or Vox, or StumbleUpon replace your social activities, as most of us are now doing.
And the whole archiving the web thing… well… don’t blame me when I just switch it all off for good. Can you say information overload? I discussed this with my friend, Yassi last night – yes, in person. It was mentioned that perhaps our brains will evolve further to be able to process (not remember) greater amounts of information. It certainly seems that’s where we are headed with all this training on how to find information with our new digital tools, versus stuffing our brains full of actual information pieces to be stored away for later use. However that is an entirely other discussion, to be written up when I am again feeling in a philosophical mood.