We have more or less been shaped and manipulated to enjoy what we are enjoying

Yochai Benkler 2009
The hi:project team is always looking for the most efficient and most effective ways to help people understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s not always easy because the digital world is broad and deep, complicated and complex. It is strangely pervasive and yet entirely remote to anyone who might not self-describe as a geek.

When we stumble across the work of those more talented in describing this vista, we latch onto it for fear of ever having to rise up to such a challenge ourselves!

Here for example is an artfully edited and beautifully produced potted history by Freakonomics Radio on where the Internet came from and how we ended up with things as they are today. No degree in computer science required. It’s not aimed at the geek but at the merely curious; those who enjoy digital devices and services and want to find out a little bit more about the influences these things – and those companies behind them – have on our lives.

Yochai Benkler, pictured here, is quoted several times during the podcast, and I’ll leave you here with two of his quotes, including one from which the title of this post is taken.

Talking about the Internet’s dominant centralized, ad-supported revenue model:

By using this very convenient, streamlined framework, you are embracing a system that makes innovation and creativity and dissent a little bit harder. And the question becomes how do we start to build systems that will make it as convenient as possible to follow the practices that actually improve our innovation environment, improve our democratic or creative discourse environment, without making it so hard that essentially people constantly need to wear a hairshirt in order to make that happen. That’s hard. That’s a challenge.

That’s a challenge the hi:project rises up to.

The Internet could “create a more engaged and creative society”, yet on its current trajectory “gatekeepers and profiteers and others will turn it into a more passive ecosystem, less interactive than it could be — more like watching television.”

That’s the bad-case scenario. We are not talking about Big Brother, 1984 and all the misery. We are talking about something that is much more like Brave New World, and we are pretty happy on the whole, day-to-day, and we don’t know what the options are beyond that because we have more or less been shaped and manipulated to enjoy what we are enjoying.


Image credit: jeanbaptisteparis, by-sa 2.0

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