Why Our Complex Relationship with the Internet is Neither Good Nor Bad
Stephen Coscia is an intern at Big Think. He is currently studying History at Boston College and is working towards minors in both Asian Studies and Faith, Peace, and Justice. A strong writer, Stephen works closely with the editorial staff.
What's the Latest Development?
There is no question as to whether or not the web provides us with a wealth of information. Every day an average of "300 billion emails" are sent. What is more of a concern is if this is good or bad for society. Some claim the former, arguing that it allowing anybody to access any kind of information whenever raises our potential. The opposing take is that the sheer amount of information is too much. Those who stand behind this argument suggest that the ability to jump from page to page in an instant and read a summary of a longer article has made our collective attention span shorter and so it is harder for us to engage as deeply as we used to.
There is a third party, however. Headed by Chad Wellmon, a professor at the University of Virginia and expert on the matter, these people propose that the internet has neither a good nor bad effect on society. They think that there are two flaws in the way their conflicting contemporaries view the situation. One is that both attempt to isolate technology from humans, as if one could change independent of the other. Wellmon and like-minded people claim that the two are linked, and change each other, and therefore one could not completely steer the other in a specific direction.
The other flaw that they point out is that those who claim the internet is either good or bad operate under the assumption that it is part of a technology boom unprecedented in all of history. This is an unfounded idea, as there have been busts in the past of equal magnitude relative to the time period of occurrence. The enlightenment period is one example. Humans have adapted to new technology, it has never brought about utopia or complete destruction. Those who agree with Wellmon think that using the internet is just the way of life of our time period.
What's the Big Idea?
Wellmon believes that the web and its seemingly endless stacks of information is neither a good, nor bad thing. To him, it is, "the very manner in which humans engage the world." Saying Google makes us stupid, or smart, is too simple a phrase for such a complex relationship.
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