Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Looking for the Better Side

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 10, 1997

Posted to HotWired 10 June 97

Well here I am on Internet Explorer, almost (not quite) for the first time ever, with its positively weird scroll-bar (who wants a scroll bar that speeds up and won't stop when you release the mouse button?). Thank you, NewBot, for downgrading my internet experience (those software downloads when I hit the Wired site, too -- strange, very strange, to let an internet site install unknown software onto my computer).

Morgan says,

We tried it the government way and that... sucks

Really? Let's turn this over and look at it from the other side. Had we waited for the corporate world to bring us the internet, how long would we have waited?

Let's remember that it was government that brought us the internet. Many people still access the net through government sponsored or subsidized sites.

While the meaning of the word "sucks" is a bit unclear, I would say that this bit of government intervention does not suck.

But - Katz thinks of the internet as a kind of hinterland. The metaphor works to an extent - it is certainly a place. But his answer to corporate settlement - some kind of hinterland revolution - doesn't pan.

Revolutions are very rarely - if ever - about principle. Forget the common myth the the American revolution was about freedom. It was about taxes - the kind of bread and butter stuff that all revolution is founded on. The corporate takeover of the internet is not the sort of thing that ferments revolution.

What we have to be doing is building alternate channels - links from mainstream media into the vast hinterland that is our internet. Putting links from public forums to our home pages (where's your link, Jon?), and from our home pages to alternative media. Constructing community sites which link all community web pages (and not just the Chamber of Commerce approve sites). And the like.

Because there is one thing about Morgan's comment which makes sense: if the alternative is better, that's where people will go. And - for my money - if a corporate site is better than what I'd see in the non-corporate world, that's where I'll surf. I'm here, right? And my Netscape browser is turned to Yahoo.

I think that the non-corporate is better than the corporate in many ways. But I've got to say this: it takes work to build a quality alternative. No way around it. Revolutions sounds romantic and grand - but it's only a guise for not wanting to get down, get dirty, and get good.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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