The origins of the internet reach back to research commissioned by the US government in the 1960’s who wanted to build a robust, fault tolerant communication via computer networks. There is no consensus on the exact date the modern internet came into being but sometime in the early to mid 1980’s is considered reasonable.
The internet has been widely used by academia since the 1980’s however the commercialisation of this vast information highway really took flight in the 1990’s. By 2012 more than 2.4 billion people – over a third of the world’s human population, had used the internet; approximately 100 times more than people in 1995.
As personal computers, mobile smart phones and other internet enabled devices evolve, accessing and publishing to the web has never been easier for people. Today the web is a growing universe of interlinked web pages and applications, teeming with articles, blogs, video’s and interactive content.
Research before the internet;
Before the internet anyone that wanted to learn or research would have had to have found information through more traditional resources like books, newspapers, journals and encyclopaedias. Finding books and more traditional sources of information required specialist knowledge of a subject. Research was then carried out and as our knowledge of a certain subject grew we sourced new material through our own thought processes, self validation and thinking. In essence we made our own minds up on what we researched, how we accessed the information and how we moved forward in our quest to find out more.
So how has this changed since the internet;
Well, the web is now a vast array of interlinked web pages of information and it has been reported that 64% of people believe what they read on websites. Which as marketers we love. These webpages are generally about a certain subject or topic. The internet has many advantages over more traditional research and communication mediums in terms of speed and reach, making it an attractive place for research and learning. However the impact on the way we ingest out this research should not be underestimated. When we read an article or blog post or any other form of content on the internet it is littered with pre-programmed, pre-thought arguments and hyperlinks strategically placed by to promote their content, views and objectives. This is where we lose our ability to control the scope and direction of our knowledge.
So my questions are;
Are we just tripping from link to link to link without thinking?
Is this someone else’s thought process I’m following?
Is this pre-programmed thinking?
Personally I think footnotes, in books for instance, gave us an opportunity to decide wether or not we continued the path of knowledge and exploration while hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.
My feeling is that the Internet and Google is subverting our ability for independent thinking, skewing the knowledge that we take on and the decisions we make.
I will be interested to hear our readers thoughts.