Will the world really change?

For the “digital natives”, living and learning in the web is nothing exceptional, the existence of all this (web2.0) technology is totally self-evident. And now even the TIME magazine has decided:

you

“The Person of the Year is You! Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.”

The web2.0 finally arrived in the mainstream. Will all these developments lead to a completely new society, with all of us being connected and open-minded, with less control and more democracy? I would love to see that, but I doubt it will happen in the near future.

In Danah Boyd’s recent article on being virtual, she states that

“That’s the big joke about the social media explosion. 1980s and 1990s researchers argued that the Internet would make race, class, gender, etc. extinct. There was a huge assumption that geography and language would no longer matter, that social organization would be based on some higher function. Guess what? When the masses adopted social media, they replicated the same social structures present in the offline world.”

Most people don’t want to change. Especially when it’s about opinions and attitudes. They tend to consume only what they know they like and what supports their opinion. They want to feel confirmed in what they think. And the more the web and other media offers, the greater are the chances that they will stay in their niche. This will become even worse when we’ll sometimes have real good recommendation services and adaptive systems. As Götz Hamann wrote in the German ZEIT magazine in this article:

“Jeder bekommt die Weltsicht, die ihm passt.”
(Everyone gets the world outlike he likes)

I’m not a misanthrope, but I have the strong feeling that all the postive effects we expect from living and learning in the web mostly concern the people that wouldn’t have needed technology to act and think autonomous, to be open-minded and to widen their horizon. The web is not good or bad per se, it’s just a medium.

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