We quickly get used to the way things are and so it is with the internet. The new technology of the Communications Age is as taken for granted today as the horseless carriage and the flying machine. And yet as recently as 18 years ago very few people were using it.
The internet has unique qualities making it completely unlike anything before. In particular it is remarkably accessible and easy to use. It is cheap. Information retrieval and publication is rapid. It is an international publication platform that never shuts down. It transcends time and geography so that its reach is instantly global. It can be used relatively anonymously, less so than of yore, but if users wish to conceal their identity they can still do so by logging on at places such as cyber cafes. One person can reach many with the assistance of websites, blogs, email and Twitter.
These very qualities of the internet that makes it a unique environment for facilitating such crimes as hacking, hacktivism, virus spreading, hate crime, card fraud, scamming, spamming, stalking or terrorism, are exactly what makes it a unique environment for researching myths and fallacies, busting them and disseminating the results.
The internet not only allows cheap publication it offers authors complete control of content. They can even set up web discussion boards that appear to be places for open discussion but that are in fact governed by rules that ensure certain viewpoints are banned.
We have now learnt that what serves harmful deviance can also help tackle it. As a 15 year old, Rhys Morgan found this to be the case on a Crohne's Disease internet forum that banned him for pointing out that the miracle cure being discussed by its members contained harmful industrial bleach. Not to be thwarted the young Morgan used the same master of your own domain factor to put the message out there via his blog – over which he also has complete control. The outcome was that the product Miracle Mineral Water was soon banned. Earlier this year he gave a talk on the subject to Nottingham’s Skeptics in the Pub. We were so impressed that we invited him to give the same talk to Criminology students at Nottingham Trent University, which went down very well as students pondered the weirdly unexplored area of quackery..You can read more about Morgan’s active role in dangerous claptrap-smashing via internet governance here: http://rhysmorgan.co/
Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of Wired magazine, saw this sort of thing coming several years before Morgan was born and embraced the future while so many others feared it (Negroponte 1995, p231):
‘…more than anything, my optimism comes form the power of being digital. The access, the mobility, and the ability to effect change are what will make the future so different from the present. The information superhighway may be mostly hype today, but it is an understatement about tomorrow. It will exist beyond people’s wildest predictions. As children appropriate a global information resource, and they discover that only adults need learners permits…’
That tomorrow is now here.
…..To be continued in The Pocket University Part III
Negroponte, N. (1995) Being Digital. Great Britain. Hodder and Stoughton.