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  • Thoughts on the Internet Revolution August 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback


    ***Dedicated to Ricardo***

    Fascinating article on the inbetween generation (and apparently now a book), the generation that grew up with computers but that can remember a world without the internet. Spent some time today trying to get statistics on when the internet actually went mainstream. Beach first heard of some proto version of the internet in 1990 in Canada, his first friends started using in 93-94 in the UK, he first actually saw an internet page in Italy in 96 at the house of a gay Italian rock star (long story), he first used the internet in 98 and he got internet in house and an email account in 2000. Probably he was late for his generation but there were outliers among his friends who hung on till perhaps even 2004 and 2005, still the revolution took place 1995-2005. The best statistics out there suggest that in 1995 there were about 16 million users and by 2005 just under a billion, a sixth of the world population. Of course, the figures are much more striking in the west. In 1995 under 2% of Britons had internet connection by 2005 it was 60%: there were clearly other ‘outliers’ though because by 2014 it was 86% of households (is this simply households who were no longer satisfied in living without internet at home – they had it at work – rather than brand new users?). It would be interesting to fix a time in that magic decade 1995-2005 when the internet became indispensable for most people.

    Some other thoughts on the internet revolution. A lot is made of the internet facilitating communication, which of course it does. But one characteristic of the inbetween generation is that there are many members of that group who love the internet but just don’t get social media. Certainly, to Beach while sites like archive.org and email have transformed life, Facebook and Twitter seem occasionally fun add-ons and, in fact, the people who cannot do without social media tend to be the ones who have essentially let social media replace email. Already in the early 1990s telephone prices for calls abroad were going down rapidly, communication with friends and family would not be that different were the internet to crash today, at least for this blogger. One thing that we perhaps forget, not least because it has been absorbed into the internet revolution, and that is the transforming power of the mobile phone. For the 1990s the mobile phone was probably more important in changing the way that people communicated than the net, not least because it was more rapidly taken up by the general population. The real hidden gift of the internet has not been interpersonal communication. Rather it has been the diffusion of goods, knowledge and excellent television programs (just finished watching True Detective).

    Much has been written too about how the internet has changed our cognitive habits. People growing up reading browsers treat the written word differently from those who grew up with books: they probably treat the written word with intelligent contempt, but there you are… However, Beach sometimes thinks that matters have gone further than this. He notices that even the quality of his dreams seems to have changed to the flashing in and out of the browser: in the same way that many years ago John Fowles complained that regular visits to the cinema fed through into his sleep. Could it be so?

    Other thoughts on the internet revolution? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com