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The Wild West

April 1, 2010

Setting up this blog has been a huge learning experience for me.  The amount of tools and features that are available are hard to wrap my mind around, and I can’t believe how far blogging has come since my first Livejournal account eight years ago.  At school, web tools and electronic submissions are becoming more and more common.  A class I was in last term had two guest lecturers speak from another state via Skype.  Programs like Diigo and Evernote are being promoted and encouraged in the academic environment. It’s a different world than when I was a Freshman.

Instead of largely ignoring web technologies and cultures, the academic community (and the world at large) is taking on the task of organizing the internet.

Websites like KnowYourMeme.com are even closing in on the underground of the internet, making subcultural capital easily accessible.  Other websites like EncyclopediaDramatica and 4chan (google at your own risk) are being targeted by large corporations and federal governments for questionable content.  Users are demanding citations, references, and sources.  As Fark.com user “PrinceofFark” put it, “The Wild West days of the internet are coming to an end”.

Post-colonialism is a myth.  We are storming into the internet, pen and paper drawn, and imposing digital barbed wire.  Sure, we can only gain from programming that allows us easier access to information, just like the pioneers could only gain from slaughtering and relocating Native Americans, or early anthropologists could only gain from imposing themselves on foreign cultures. This is the devolution of folklore.  Of course I think the spread of child pornography, human trafficking, and extremely graphic imagery should be stopped, but it seems like the focus has been in all the wrong places.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, on the other hand, is only one of many organizations actively working to preserve net neutrality and inform internet users.  Despite a number of lawsuits, “anonymous” have become the unofficial vigilantes of the e-frontier, actively working against anybody who expresses an earnest opinion (as long as they give a good reaction).  So maybe there’s hope after all.  One thing is clear to me.  When we are overly eager to categorize new frontiers, we lose our ability to see the thing itself.

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