Sunday, April 28, 2013

The dumbing down

1997. Yes, that was the year when I first used the Internet. It was a different era. You did not have Internet in your home. At least most of us did not.

So it was a "cyber cafe" on Brigade road in Bangalore where I first used the Internet. What stuck me the most about Internet was information. I could have have information I needed, at the click of a button.
And then there was the joy of communication. Send a "letter" and the other party can read it instantly. No more buying an envelope, fixing stamps, and going to the post office and then waiting.

Then came college, and full access to Internet. However, by quirk of fate and my marks, I got into a very top rated college which was unfortunately dependent on Ernet for Internet. With its wobbly out of alignment satellite 16kbps, yes its Kilo Bits/second was the spread our entire college got(64kbs was a dream which happened sometimes).
And this also influenced the usage pattern. We had black and white machines, and everything had to be text. So the speeds did not matter, not much anyway.

And text meant information. Information to devour from the "social networks of that day" the discussion forums and groups. The usenets and the bulletin boards.

The users then were mostly Engineers, techies, and people who knew about the subject. Information was reliable, debates were technical, and the outlook was global. You had less of the "mera desh mahan brigade" or "mera religion mahan bridage". The political, religious or nationalistic groups had not yet discovered the Internet. It was not a mass medium.

It was a fringe. A group of the "outliers". This is what the internet was. It was a peaceful place. Sure flame wars were legendary, but they were more on Vi or Emacs. More about technology. It was a engineers domain. A domain of numbers, and objectivity, for the most part.

So now, lets forward to current day. The Internet has brought change to millions. Its touched lives. There is everybody, their mother, their son, their daughter and their cow on the Internet, imparting Gyan, or information, and the most common "Shared wisdom"

And this shared wisdom has one underlying thought. One underlying principle

"If it iz on teh internejs it mst b truu!"

And probably, this is the underlying philosophy, which has lead to what I call the dumbing down of the Internet.
More on that in later posts