Nesta is an organisation committed to global innovation, and they do some fantastic work across healthcare, housing, science, architecture, technology, education and much more. Their latest publication is an interactive book bringing together essays, interviews, stories and artworks reflecting on the internet’s past and future, from over thirty contributors from fifteen countries and five continents.
As an early adopter of internet and digital technology - I started coding aged 9 on my BBCB computer - I thoroughly enjoyed this, and it’s got some thought provoking commentary on the greatest invention of the 20th century (IMHO).
It’s hard to be wholly positive though, especially as NESTA points out “While early internet pioneers dreamed of an internet that would be open, free and decentralised, the story of the internet today is mostly a story of loss of control”. Given the last blog post I wrote was about racism on Twitter, I’m inclined to agree.
These are my top nine highlights if you don’t have time to read the whole book for yourself, but it is worth it. Please send me your suggestions for number 10 to add to the list!
Tim Berners-Lee put a proposal to his boss on 12 March 1989, Mike Sendall, who scribbled in the margins “Vague, but exciting.” What came next is history: just a few years later, Berners-Lee’s self-described “hypertext thing” – designed to be used for information management within CERN – became the World Wide Web.
The first ever image was uploaded on to the Web in March 1992, the year I started university. For future predictions, in 2039 Lithium will run out, meaning no more smartphones.
There’s a fascinating interview with Jimmy Wales, he of Wikipedia fame: “Wikipedia is built by a lot of really nice people working in a community which works really hard to empower and believe in people. Facebook is a totally different platform with a totally different purpose (socialising with friends and family) but there are lots of nice people there too!”
There’s also a somewhat disturbing Q&A with Professor Shoshana Zuboff from Harvard Business School on Surveillance Capitalism, and how the business models underlying the data economy are influencing us: “The age of surveillance capitalism originates in an even more startling and audacious mental invention, as surveillance capitalism declares private human experience as free raw material for translation into production and sales. It relies on hidden operations intentionally designed to bypass “user” awareness.”
My favourite mention goes to the Londoner who got his fake restaurant, The Shed, to the coveted number 1 spot on Tripadvisor. If you don’t know this story it’s well worth a read.
This February, we reached another important internet milestone: more than half of the world’s population is now online.
Digital Culture expert Whitney Phillips talks trolling (although she no longer uses that term) and online hoaxes, and the role that journalists should play in combating this: “On the journalism side, it’s critical for journalists to understand that they are not just part of the amplification chain, they’re also often the trophy”
There’s a precautionary tale from Jessica Furseth on how our digital habits could be endangering our entire visual history.
Ted Hunt shows us a radically reimagined search engine. Open Index Internet rebuilds how the internet is both accessed and organised from the ground up. It is built on the premise of a European Union funded open-source internet index that would decentralise the search engine market currently monopolised by Google.
You can read the book at https://findingctrl.nesta.org.uk/
Credits: The book was curated and edited by Caroline Back, Katja Bego and Amelia Tait. The designs and development of the website behind the book were created by Manchester-based agency Toyfight.