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Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

The Trivialisation of Communication – Part 1

December 8, 2009 1 comment

Few would disagree that one of the most decisive moments in human history was the appearance of languages. In my opinion, it stands right besides the evolution of the bipodal homo erectus, the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel. It changed the very essence of human existence from being about survival, to being about something beyond that: the birth of languages changed how a human society is formed. The transition from the hunter gatherer groups of the Neanderthal man to the farming groups of homo sapiens could not have happened if even one of these key ingredients was missing.

I have spent a long time wondering about the magical evolution of languages and cultures and societies. The alchemy produced by the interactions of these elements of the human world is breathtaking to say the very least. Words are the building blocks of languages. A society is built by the interaction of it’s constituents and this interaction in turn defines the society. Each of these elements thus defines the other. For someone who respects languages, a respect for words develops naturally. One understands that the communication has a purpose and that every word must justify itself. Their significance can be gauged by looking at the fact that ‘vachan’, hindi for ‘word’, is also the word for promise. In the Sanatan epic, Ramayana, wise words spoke of the ‘reeti’ or norm of Raghukul (Lord Ram’s lineage): ‘Raghukul reet Sada chali aayi, praan jaayi par vachan na jaayi’; translated, those from Raghukul can lay their lives to stand by their words. It is one of the few guiding principles of my life.

But this is no Satyug or Tretayug or Dwaparyug (Eras acording to Sanatan theology), this here is the Kalyug. Over the ages, not only did men lose such principles but also the understanding of the implications that words have. Words that may hurt people, words that may distance people, words that may kill people. What is important is the end result, the process of the communication itself is ignored, as is the connections implied or the impacts it has on the other elements of the societal construct.
There would be those amongst my readers who remember sending Telegrams. Kids like me were taught how to write telegrams in school. We’d learnt that each word must be weighed for it’s importance because each word was worth money. That was the only incentive that people understand in Kalyug is money so that worked for a while.

Claude Elwood Shannon and his elaborate and erudite works on the theory of communication have volumes on the lines that every bit takes up bandwidth and therefore must be justified. For the longest time it did hold true. Enter Web 2.0 and the generation spawning out of the cross interference of popcorn microwaves and cellular signals. Every idiot now has unlimited 140 characters to propound his personal philosophy. Speech became a freedom with no sense of any duty let alone balls to own up to it or stand by ones words. Aisi baani boliye, man ka aapa khoye, auran ko seetal kare, aapahun seetal hoye. Sant Kabir would be appalled to find what men are doing with their speech these days.

But it is neither the frivolity nor the acerbic nature of what is being written that worries me. Trivialization of communication worries me because it is the focus has shifted from the predicate to the subject. In a society where speech is trivialized the vociferous and the verbose often pass by as the thinkers. And when a society loses it’s thinkers it marks the beginning of it’s end. When the subject assumes significance over the predicate, the progression of thoughts into actions changes as well. What implications does it have for the human society?

(to be continued)

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The Social Web is Narcissistic

August 28, 2008 2 comments

…and at its heart is an Egotist – You.

Disclaimer: The thoughts about this article are still extremely hazy and maybe I’ll refine it in some time but I think this deserves some thought. This is an Old Draft but I still decided to publish it.

Ajay, a friend and a mentor @ work and I were having our regular cup of coffee this afternoon when it all started. For long have I been asking him to get onto the Social Web and he has been reluctant about it for no declared reason. The guy has a Twitter Id which he barely uses citing excuses of wanting to avoid an addictive distraction – something I can’t refute; and uses no other networking service. Well today, I got him talking, nudging him to point what he sees wrong with the Web as it has become. To set some context, We’ve both long wondered that there is something seriously wrong with the way the world is headed; I have been optimistic about the Web, thus far.

“Well”, Ajay said, “it promotes unjust Narcissism.” And then i realized the direction his reluctance was coming from… Both Ajay and I are severely Narcissistic guys – We Still believe we are the centers of universe and the Sun revolves around us. Not the world, just a few of us… But it isn’t Narcissism at a personal level, it is narcissism at a mass level that should raise a concerning eyebrow – Because it promotes Amateurism at a mass level. And Narcissistic Noobs is something most of us can’t put up with and shouldn’t, to be true.

The Social Web, is built around the construct of ‘Me’. It is an immediate instance of the act of Consumption of the Self. There is this need for this ‘Me’ to be consumed – in all forms. (More in this direction later). An old observation of mine on similar lines came when I was wondering about the Testimonials on the social sites. No matter who this ‘Me’ is, there are people to promote ‘Me’, to vouch for ‘Me’, who think ‘Me’ is good, great, fantabulous. ‘Me’ is happy, and ‘Me’ genuinely believes he is great and this continues. Eventually this leads to a degeneration of the Web – let alone Information, most content isn’t even Data for me, just Noise.

Despite all of this, I still believe Web 2.0 promises me a great way of information discovery. In potential, I can control exactly what I let seep through to me, what I allow myself to expose myself to. It will all start with amateurism, but I feel Amateurs at some point of time will evolve, those who don’t will perish. Eventually, the fittest will survive. Ajay doesn’t quite agree with me; Natural Selection scares him – Amateurs will promote Amateurs and the circle of the thoughtful will be left tiny and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I’m hoping I get to see him wrong on this.

Do you feel the Web 2.0 Shall evolve to a sea of information or do you think Noise will inundate the information by far?