Posted on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Annat Katz
This is an engaging guest post by the lovely Dan Fonseca, creator of the blog Synapses. In this intriguing post Dan talks about the speed at which we retrieve information online, and how this affects the Knowledge Gap theory.
When I think about my favorite characteristic about the Internet, I immediately think of its incredible ability to flatten the information/knowledge gap. Not to get critical and ideological too soon, but before the Internet was easily available, knowledge was often controlled one way or another. This by no means implies that there was no knowledge accessibility before the Internet, that would simply be silly. What I am trying to communicate is that one had to jump through a few more hoops to get it, and it required a little more effort on our part. Knowledge is power and it should not be a surprise that those with power often go out of their way to hold on to it and keep it exclusive. Those with knowledge use its power to mold society and often take advantage of those who simply do not know any better or have the means to combat the hegemony. This has always been the case until some force came around to challenge it, thus shifting power.
Throughout history we have seen technology disrupt power dynamics. Technological Determinism has always helped democratized information and with it power. Just think back to the Gutenberg press and its effects on the Catholic Church. The printing press helped to publish information quickly, helping diffuse new ideas across modern Europe. The rest is history you can find in textbooks or, actually better yet, Google.
What I am trying to communicate is that the advent of the Internet has done exactly what the printing press did back then, but to an enormous extent that we are still trying to comprehend. Think about it for a quick second. What is stopping you right now from searching whatever you wanted? From learning anything that interested you? Not much, maybe a poor Internet connection or questionable battery life, but apart from that absolutely nothing! That’s a pretty wild and empowering situation to be in, huh?
Though we have come a long way in our history, society is still one comprised of the “haves and the have-nots.” Dependent on socioeconomic factors, one’s life can play out very differently. Factors like: What neighborhood did you grow up in? What school did you go to? Are you attending college? These variables can have a huge impact on a life’s outcome, there is no questioning that. Sure, there is the “American Dream” but many say that is a myth. We are often given the cards and have to deal with them the best way we can. Though this remains true to some extent today, the Internet is challenging that situation.
With the Internet, anything is possible. Knowledge is everywhere, oozing from every crevice of the web. You can’t go to a single website without coming across incredible showcases of the meta-data that’s put to work. There are countless communities online looking to share and grow together and they only become stronger in numbers. Between YouTube and Wikipedia, one has the information to learn just about anything! We are now unbound by the previous constrains of other institutions on our intellectual betterment; we are rather held by our curiosity.
We live in a time that favors experience and ideas over backgrounds and test scores. It is time we all capitalize on that. That’s not to say we are all in an equal playing field (far from it), but the game has become more reasonable and fair.
The Internet, with all its beauty, has done something incredible to our age. We have the ability to share, connect, and learn without any ceiling built in. We are the only ones holding us back and if we take advantage of this, we -collectively, as a society- can become better, more equal, and ultimately happier. Long live the Internet!
“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious” – Albert Einstein
*Dan Fonseca is currently a Communications student at Northeastern University in Boston and writes his very own blog Synapses. He enjoys thinking about the bigger picture and looks to bring people together in anyway he can. Dan loves his brie and sushi too. Oh yeah, he’s also proud to be from New Jersey so watch what you say 🙂