Carr and Shirkey are locked in an endless “moot point” struggle. We should all commend them, because someone has to do it for the rest of us. Ultimately, there are no definitive answers to the debate, but we should all be aware that the debate exists. The idea that our society could potentially be suffering from a lack of deep thinking, induced by the “unfocused internet,” is something we should all take time to ponder.

Why does the internet seem so scary to some people? Is it more or less scary than any other widespread technological change? I seem to remember hearing about similar critiques to radio and television. When they were introduced, each lead to a widespread cultural change. And everything turned out fine…right?

The internet is having a similar effect. We’ve experienced this change in much the same way our grandparents experienced the TV boom, or our great great grandparents experienced the telephone boom. When a new communication technology is introduced, a shockwave of expanded human knowledge ripples through the fabric of society. Each one is different, and each one has a generation of scholars and thinkers who dig deep and help the rest of us understand what is happening. Carr and Shirkey are two of our era’s thinkers.

But with this debate they’re concerned with the way our thinking has changed. The instant acces to information on the web certainly has implications for the way we store and process information. But is this simply the same debate that occurred with the telephone, the radio and TV? Each one of these technologies has changed the way we access (and process) information. The difference with the internet, I think, is the fact that the information superhighway is a real “superhighway” of information. One can encounter much more information while surfing the web than they could while watching a TV broadcast in the same amount of time. I mean, we’ve all heard the adage of an issue of the New York times has more information than someone living in the 1800′s would have encountered in their entire life. Information is crack, and we love crack. I think. Bad analogy.

Carr is astute to offer his observations on the matter. He’s noticing a trend that has serious implications. He, like the rest of us, is living in a time where humans are encountering a lot of things for the first time. We need people like him to keep us aware of the possible implications of our new found love potion. (Strike two on analogies). But Shirkey is the flip-side to his coin. I like Shirkey’s opinion better, probably because I hope the food is really super food: the nourishing blend of nutrients our species really needs to reach it’s potential. (Base hit?). Shirkey is optimistic. And we can proceed optimistically if we keep the advice of both of these thinkers in our thoughts.

I support amateurization. And if I was the creator of a fictional franchise I would support it even more. Fictional franchises, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings, etc, seem to embrace the involvement of their fans. I believe, in the case of Star Trek, that it has kept the franchise alive for nearly 50 years.

I was raised on Star Trek and Star Wars. My dad took me to a few Trek conventions as a kid. Looking back, it seems pretty weird. But at the time it seemed perfectly normal: the cool stuff you see on TV existed right there in front of you in real life. Except it wasn’t real, it was extremely devoted and passionate fanatics. These are the hardcore fans that embrace the creativity of the genre and keep the fictional universe alive even during “down” times. Think about it, Star Trek could not have survived without all those insanely devoted fans. People will always be into it, and it’s because of amateurization. People were into it then, and they still are.

About 8 years ago, some hardcore Trek fans pooled their own resources to begin production on the “New Voyages,” a series of fan-made episodes intended to continue the original Star Trek series from the 60′s. Interestingly, Paramout and CBS have yet to acknowledge the existence of these productions. There is no official explanation as to why Paramount would turn a blind eye to the most extensive case of copyright infringement in the franchises history, but soon after the New Voyages began, Paramount canceled Enterprise, the last running Trek TV series. The franchise would lay officially dormant until the reboot of 2009. Unofficially, the self-funded “New Voyages” (now known as ST: Phase II) continue. (I will admit that I watched one once and the acting was C-list at best, but it looked like they were into it).

It’s my opinion that amateur productions like the Star Trek New Voyages have allowed these franchises to exist for decades. What better way is there to get involved with something you like than to become a creator? Fans can live the roles of their most admired heroes. My 8 year-old neighbor was making Pokemon cards with his friend this plast weekend. They’ll remember that forever.

The biggest difference now is that amateur producers are able to post their creations on the internet for other to see. This allows for the possibility for fan communities to grow stronger than ever before. Star Trek is no exception. I searched “Star Trek Enterprise” in Youtube, looking for a news clip on why the series was canceled. Instead, I found endless pages of fans showing off their models of the starship Enterprise.

I’m feeling close to the event horizon of this black hole, so I might have to stop here. In conclusion, it seems the fictional franchises with the most long-term success are the ones who have embraced the amateur works of their fans. It just seems to be good for business.

This looks pretty interesting. This was an original idea for my research paper, so I’ve been wondering for a while how instant access to information is affecting us. What changes has Google brought to our psychology? Is it really making us stupid, or are we getting smarter? What are the implications for the digital divide?

Where does societal change come from? The printing press changed the way knowledge is distributed. The automobile revolutionized transportation. The computer revolutionized business. And now virtual worlds are changing the way we interact with each other. It took the implementation of the interstate highway system to allow the automobile reach its full potential. In this same light, we have not yet seen the full potential of virtual worlds. We’re currently witnessing the change. The big question is: where will this road take us?

Humans have never before had the opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by virtual worlds. For the first time in human history we’re able to use Avatars to represent ourselves differently, simulate interpersonal interaction and are truly making distance obsolete. These newfound possibilities are changing the way people and businesses function.

MMORPG’s are not for me, but they seem to be very effective ways of socializing for some people. It may seem silly to many of us that they have developed relationships with each other while playing WOWC. But a true connection is created when people work together to complete tasks, regardless of where or how it’s done. At the WOWC conference, there was a married couple that met while playing the game. Our class snickered that “they’re not even touching,” because they looked so stiff. I don’t think that is caused by the game: that’s their personalities. If anything, the game connected them in a way that was not possible just a decade ago.

We saw a massive IBM office building devoid of its inhabitants. They were still working full-time, but the need to physically be at an office was obsolete. If I was opening a new branch of a company that could be staffed by teams that interact virtually, I would skip the $20 million facilities cost. Commercial real-estate in the US is valued at $4 trillion. Will virtual worlds put a dent in this figure?

The military has used virtual worlds to change warfare. Never before has a pilot been able to return home to their family after a day of unleashing ariel strikes. This certainly removes the human cost to our side of the battle, but drone technology probably won’t stop here. Where will this go in the future? Will the empty office building actually be our battle front someday?

Overall, these examples display a blurring of the lines between the real world and the virtual world. I don’t see this as good or bad, it’s just a change. Certainly a disconnect from the real world has implications, but we’ve yet to see an overall negative result. So far, the results appear positive.

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