10 January 2011

Things the Internet has Killed (Part 5)

This is (I think) the final part of the things-the-internet-has-killed saga.  This part will deal with some other things that didn't make the first (Newsweek) list.

If you missed the first four, they can be found here-
  Part 1
  Part 2
  Part 3
  Part 4

Local Shopping- This one is a no-brainer.  More than half of the Christmas presents I bought were purchased online this year.  Statistically, I'm not much different than the rest of the populace, except I might be a bit behind the times...they bought more than half online.

I hate what this does to the local (mythological any more) mom-and-pop shops, but I certainly like what it does for my wallet.  (What's in your wallet?  Well, more money than if I'd bought the same things locally.)  Or at least, I think I do.  I wonder if all the stuff I have access to online wasn't so accessible, if the cost of things I can access locally wouldn't be a bit lower?  We'd need a PhD-economist to figure that one out.  I don't happen to have one handy.

The Gospel-Whoa, there.  That's a pretty big accusation!  I really don't think the internet can kill the gospel (in fact, I know it can't).  But it can make it harder to come by.  With all the talking heads and bloggers (like me!) out there, it is getting harder to find orthodox Christianity amid all the health-and-wealth nonsense put out by the Joel Osteen wannabees.  (I'm not saying I'm an Osteen wannabee, I'm saying I'm another blogger who has an opinion.)  All media is a tool, and just as the internet can be used to make pornography more accessible, it can be used to make the gospel more accessible.  And in the process, those who think they are spreading the gospel but are instead spreading something other than the gospel can obfuscate the real gospel without even being aware of the problem they are causing.

Asking Questions- In the good ole' days, if you needed to know something, you asked a person smarter than you.  Now, you ask Jeeves.  Or Google.  Or whoever your search engine has happened to make your default search provider.  I guess people are still asking questions, maybe even more than they used to (after all, when's the last time you saw a search engine reply to a stupid question, "Now that's a Stupid Question!"?).  But they aren't asking each other.  They are typing their questions into a search box on their computer or their smart phone.

Maps- This one might fall under Reference (#12), but not quite totally.  I recently took a trip over into Oklahoma.  I didn't bother putting a map in the car with me, other than the mapquest.com map I printed of the military base where I was going (which showed me how to get to the building to which I needed to get).  I also took my smart phone, which has a 'Maps' app, and whenever I needed to look for a road number or a turn, just flipped my phone on and looked.  If the 3G wireless had been down in some of those rural areas, I'd have been lost.  Maybe keeping a printed map in the glove box isn't a bad idea after all.

Newspapers-  This one's not news to anybody.  It's been going on for some time.  And with the amount of bias that seems to be inherent in national news sources any more, I can't say that I'm terribly disappointed with this trend.  But then, the biased used-to-be-professionals-but-that-doesn't-matter-anymore reporters and editors will just take their trade somewhere else...they won't go away.

Spontaneity- How so?  Well, we used to be driving around and on the spur of the moment, would pick a restaurant or other attraction and simply walk in.  Now, we have to plan everything.  Menus are viewed, prices are investigated, specials are researched, coupons downloaded, and so on.  Nothing much seems to happen on a lark anymore.  (Even in the car, the smart phone comes out when we need to find a place to eat.)  This has HUGE ramifications for where and how a business should spend their marketing money.  I just don't know if all those ramifications are sorted out yet.

Exclusivity-Used to, if you had some information, a story, news, or even gossip, you had a small-time monopoly for a while.  Now (unfortunately), we can know what the Kardashians ate for dinner before the maid has cleared the table.  Everybody can know (if they want).  In a way, the volume of information available now is mind-boggling.  And almost all of it is useless.

Originality-  Well, maybe the internet has not really killed it, but made it plain its not a real as we thought.  In the past, two people who had a very similar thought, and managed by chance to put that thought into words and write it down somewhere, were very unlikely to ever know about the other, and very few (if any) people in the world ever knew the two thinkers had the same thought.  Now that we put almost every musing on paper (ok, not paper, on screen), and all of this musing is then searched and cataloged by some mystical web crawlers, and can be retrieved in an instant with a search engine, we see whenever anyone has something similar to say.  In fact, we see examples of real and accidental plagiarism all the time.  (The trick is to determine which was accidental and which was not...my English teachers always told me that plagiarism was wrong even if it was accidental...we'll see how that goes over in the internet age.)  There's no better example of the importance of motive (a big deal in criminal law) in making attribution to someone's actions than with all the similar thought going on. 

How much of what we think and say is really original, and how much is recycled, sometimes verbatim, of what we read and hear?  More than we realize, I'd guess.

Well, that about wraps this topic.  The fun will be coming back to this list in a year or in five years and seeing how right some of these predictions/explanations were, and how wrong others were.  We'll see.

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