Less “What Was”, More “What Is” and “What Can Be”

This readings for this week, in conjunction with the previous week’s readings, have encouraged me to think about the web more critically. I’ve grown pretty tired of the “something precious has been lost forever”, good-old-days rhetoric, but these readings have caused me to think about the web in a way that recognizes its fluidity as opposed to taking for granted a static sense of status quo.

I wrote last week about my frustration with the aforementioned something-precious-lost narrative, but for the purposes of this entry and this topic, I want to mention one other issue, and that is the rose-coloured-glasses effect of nostalgia. While the web of yore did definitely function in a way different from the web of today, and while some of the differences could probably be seen as a decline in [insert virtue here], I think it’s also important to recognize that romanticizing the past often has a tendency to focus on what was good instead of what was not-good. I’m a little out of my depth in this subject area, but I’m sure that there were things about the Web that Used to Be that aren’t so desirable.

That all being said, this examination of the history and evolution of the web has shifted the way in which I think of things in a way that I’m more mindful of the the fact that the web is a structure with architecture and technology behind it. It seems obvious, but the way I conceived of the web before was a lot more like a mountain—an inevitable landform resulting direct and indirect forces, but essentially inevitable, fixed, and to a certain extent, organic. The readings from the last few weeks, however, have encouraged me to think of the web more as a series of scaffolds—intentionally built and maintained by human engineering, very much un-fixed, and essentially mutable. The web as we know it today may not be functioning exactly in the way that the original architects envisioned, but the functions and structures that exist exist because someone (or, more likely, a team of someones) decided that this function or structure would benefit the overall whole of the structure or user base. No part of the integral design of the web has been accidental or organic. The web does not design itself.

This paradigm, where the web is fluid and built by humans (it of course seems so obvious when you put it that way). Is a much more empowering relationship to have with technology in general. It’s easy to take technology and the web especially for granted when you’ve grown up with it and you’ve also sort of grown and evolved in step with technology—it’s easy for it to all feel inevitable and fixed, but it very much isn’t. And if it isn’t, then it can be better.


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