Monday, November 28, 2011

No One Friend Should Have All That Power

While watching the "Power People" section of Download: The True Story of the Internet, I couldn't help but notice a trend in the usage of the verbs "participate," "create," "communicate" and "interact." I think these words stood out to me because I always think of the Internet as being very "me-centered." The Internet helps me release my message. The Internet helps me find the information I want to use.

Physically, I usually release and find information when I am alone at my computer (e.g., while I type this very sentence). Technologically, however, the information I find and the platforms I release my messages on were all developed by a greater online community. John Heilemann, host of the documentary, described how these online communities have developed over time by giving a voice to the common man.

Shawn Fanning gave rise to the peer-to-peer network architecture with his invention, Naptser. Napster created one of the first web communities that encouraged social interaction between its users (Side Note: I think the video did an excellent job of depicting Metallica during the Napster trial). The creators of YouTube added to this idea by allowing their users to actually generate their own content, and users on sites like Digg rated the content and spurred its popularity. The founders of YouTube and Digg gave a voice to the masses; knowing average people were more likely to trust the opinions of their peers than corporations. Thus, the "Medium of the Little Man" was born.

Primarily social sites like Myspace and Facebook gave a voice to the opinions the common man really cares about: Our friends. The "social graph" concept is built around the relationships we share with those friends. It is now easier for us to share our content with complete strangers and friends alike through these different networks (Side Note: It was kind of strange to finally hear Tom Anderson speak after seeing that goofy default Myspace picture so many times. Extra Side Note: I kept hoping the video would tie Sean Parker in; so I could compare him to Justin Timberlake).

Although some networks are built around making money, altruistic sites like Craigslist and Wikipedia simply believe in setting communication free. Regardless of what their motives are, these sites have all contributed to evening the playing field for the common man and allowing him to be an author in the book of our rapidly-changing digital world.

No comments: