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The internet is NOT evolutionary

October 5th, 2009 by Colin Carmichael

It is revolutionary.

I have spent a fair bit of my time over the last few years explaining the web to people. The people I talk to are smart people but the internet is new – and it’s new in a new kind of way. It is a transformative presence in our lives in ways we have never seen from a technology – or collection of technologies.

This kind of change often leads to suspicion and fear and I used to try to allay those fears by framing the internet revolution as an evolution instead. “Don’t worry,” I would say, “this is no different than the advent of the printing press, telegraph, telephone and television. The web is merely the next step along the road of communication technology. It’s no big deal, you can relax.” To hear me tell it, this was a mere incremental advance in a long string of similar advances.

I was wrong, though, and I knew it. My desire to make my audiences as comfortable as possible with things like blogs, Facebook and Twitter trumped any desire to tell the truth. The truth is this: the the web is a technological revolution that has transformed, and continues to transform, our global society. Nothing will be spared the impact of the web. Our socio-political structures will change, our understanding of personal relationships will change (in just the last eighteen months a single website has made the word “friend” globally ambiguous), and, eventually, our churches will change too.

Don’t take my word for it, though, I’ve lied about this before. Let Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, tell you. In June of this year, Shirky spoke to the US State Department as part of the TEDTalks program. In just fifteen minutes and a handful of slides Shirky is able to distill the seismic shift we are experiencing into accessible language and concepts. This video skyrocketed to the top of my “videos everyone must watch” list:

Link to video: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.html

[originally posted at BeingPresbyterian.ca]

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One Response to “The internet is NOT evolutionary”

  1. [...] is a pretty common characterization of today's technology as something new. I've argued with myself before about whether or not we are in an era of technological revolution as it relates specifically [...]

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