Have you ever wondered what the interwebs would look like if Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold the idea to the highest bidder?
I have, and let me tell you, I’m so very grateful he didn’t.
Can you imagine the multitude of companies vying for our money to get access to the ‘best’ information on the web? Or what if you wanted information about Education and had to pay for a subscription to ‘internet x’ but to learn about ecosystems and weather patterns you had to pay to subscribe to ‘internet y’ OR ‘internet A’ which boasts even MORE information than ‘internet y’. My mind is spinning thinking about all of the ways it would cost me to access knowledge.
Thank goodness Berners-Lee had a vision which worked to have a unified front, where everyone can access everything they want by going to one place (I’m paraphrasing here). That being said, Lee’s vision didn’t completely come to fruition.
Road Blocks and Toll booths
By freakapotimus [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Common
Lee’s vision was one of “openness and creativity” but is that the internet of today?
I would argue that, everyday, people on the internet come up against a plethora of road blocks, which limit their ability to openly express themselves creatively (see what I did there?)
There are several issues which impede the openness of today’s internet. One major factor that prevent Lee’s vision is copyright, which affects internet consumers and producers on a daily basis by limiting the access to ‘stuff’ on the internet.
Next, we see the control imposed on the availability of knowledge by academic journals which currently allow access to those who fall into privilege – and not just those who wish to learn, as referenced and fought for by Danah Boyd and Aaron Swartz.
We continue to see the constraints placed on knowledge and creativity when we begin to look at the patents placed on ideas, and how research can be done, but progress on these ideas are severely limited due to the patents.
Instead of working with each other and sharing information – we are putting a price on intellectual property and failing to let others build on and adapt ideas to improve them.
The cure for cancer could be a step away but you know it’s off limits and they might sit on that idea forever and do nothing with it. – Girl Talk (RIP: A remixer’s manifesto)
A Promising frontier?
All is not lost, and there is an insurgence of people working to ‘get back’ to Lee’s vision. With the creation of Creative Commons, there’s a point being made to encourage creativity and the idea of participatory culture that the internet was founded upon!
With the idea of Open Educational resources, allowing free and equal access to those who wish to learn, we are on the right track. There is still work to be done in these areas – as when and where Open resources are available are varied but it is certainly working toward a vision of the internet that was initially intended.