This experience has shown me the extent to which the Internet and its properties of virtual reality and community can allow us to completely immerse ourselves in this digital landscape. But I'm worried about what we're immersing ourselves into. Is it the blogs, social networks, posts and message boards that link us based on social interaction and shared interests? Or are am I allowing myself to dive into a world using freedom and choice as an illusion? I worry because the web is too 'honest' and powerful of a medium to not garner attempted manipulation. Just like there are some people who think the news we watch and read is 'fair and balanced' and don't question it for a second, I wonder if we are not doing the same thing, or at least will unknowingly believe the same to be true if such a transition ever happens. We see glimpses of this in countries where national control or partial censorship of the Internet exists, we even question that it might be happening here with issues of the phone companies and net neutrality. But how do we know if it hasn't happened in the quiet of the night. James Beniger states that the Internet's progression is bottom up, but in our day and age for every web innovation created there is a multi-billion dollar company or investment group there to propel it from the bottom up. The optimist in me says they are just cultivating and polishing it while getting a nice monetary surplus in the process and that its ideological purpose and functions is of minimal concern to them, but why is this so hard to believe?
Previewing and buying books, television, music...whatever we want has become a reality. More than a simulation of the social landscape, the web has become an extension. We can now yell at, insult, meet and lie to one another at distances and times larger and further than ever before. The outcomes are good and bad but seemingly always more convenient. But if for nothing else that wasn't already readily available to us before the web as we know it today, it has upheld and at least noticeably perpetuated freedom of speech and the discourse of ideas. This is a problem that was not solved before the Internet, will probably not be after it, but is undoubtedly helped as a result of it. This is the saving grace of the Internet, the propagation of our ideas, wherever they may be directed. It is important we keep them free from tyranny and manipulation; corporate, ideological or otherwise.
This is perhaps what I have gotten most out of the class, the productive and creative potential for the web. Whether spitting a hot bar of oratory skills on Youtube, or textually dropping dope rhymes via blog. Seeing the next generation of manifestos, pallets, note pads, and drawing boards on those streaming videos and blog entries, I've learned that at my discretion I can be putting as much in to this Internet-thing as I get out.