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Thursday, April 13, 2006

thinking about 4/13 readings

"The conversation I believe we need to have is about what the Web is showing us about ourselves."

As the Web has embedded itself into our daily routine, the individual self has been evolving into a dual entity. The physical self, who interacts with the real world, is the metaphorical mother, while the projected self, who interacts solely within the Web, is the fetus. It is still connected to and is fed by our physical self, yet it's undeniably a separate and distinct evolution. We don't have to be a unique person in the physical world, because we can be anyone on the Web...and vice versa.

At this juncture, it's not a question of which world is more desirable to inhabit...it's a personal choice untainted by societal expectations.Is this proving to be an insurmountable cop-out? If you succeed (whether personally or professionally) in one world, but not in the other, do you still succeed? With the age of cyber-reality comes new definitions, not only of self, but of success.

But what are we really learning about ourselves? The Web is all too often a place where the darker sides of human nature can flourish. Hackers, identity thieves, child predators, sex addicts...characters considered "unsavory" in the physical world have found a place to call home in cyberspace. In this way, our cyber identities become our id and a new question emerges: how do we keep the id under control without limiting the personal freedoms granted to a democratic society?

In this context, the Web can be seen as a natural extension of laissez faire rhetoric that has shaped capitalist societies. Cyberspace is a largely unregulated domain...those who use (and abuse) it to accomplish their own agenda will likely benefit, while the weak (the victims of unsavory characters like those mentioned above) are left unprotected by the system.

This is not to bestow an entirely negative view of the Web on any reader. It has, in some ways, changed our lives for the better. Integrating cultures previously unknown to one another, cyberspace has the potential to transcend prejudice and unite us in ways never before imagined. However, as I once learned from my Spiderman comics, with great power comes great responsibility. Cyberspace is much more powerful medium than anyone ever imagined, (arguably) affecting societies in greater ways than television ever has or will. How ready or willing are we to accept the responsiblity for its consequences?

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