Power

Before the Web, you had to be a corporation or the government to publish and distribute a book, run a radio station, or broadcast video. But now, anyone can publish content for anyone else who has access to a computer and the Internet. A site you create is just as easy to browse as a site put up by the biggest corporation in the world or the U.S. Government. This is the power that the Web gives to individuals and organizations anywhere on the planet. It includes:

  • The power to publish and read complex repositories of thought and to enter into a dialog on that thought.
  • The power to publish and view visual representations of knowledge, image and art.
  • The power to broadcast or receive music, radio and video from anywhere at any time.
  • The power to publish and access software and to create and utilize direct Web relationships with individuals and organizations anywhere at any time.

Not a bad way to begin the millennium!

You now have the chance to make your voice heard in a fresh and uncensored manner. Unfortunately, so does every crackpot on the planet.

The Barriers are Gone

Since it costs so much money to edit, print, and distribute a book, publishers take great care in selecting the books they publish. Likewise, librarians take great care in selecting books for their libraries.

If you buy a book in a bookstore or check it out of a library, you know the following:

  • The author was able to sell the idea of the book to an editor.
  • The editor was able to convince a publisher that the book was good enough to justify investing the money needed to get it printed.
  • The editor and proof reader at the publishing company made sure the book was as good as it could be.
  • A bookstore thought the book was good enough to put on its shelves.
  • A librarian thought the same thing.

By the time you see the book, a whole army of people have stood up and said that it is worthwhile. The same is definitely not true of a web site; all you need is some knowledge, a computer, and an Internet connection. Before, you needed the cooperation of a corporation to publish your ideas; now you just need the Web.

The buffer is gone; on the Web we're on our own.

The Web has often been described as a Digital Library. However, it has none of the safeguards of a traditional library. Instead, we should think of the Web as a Digital Bulletin Board. Any crackpot with a piece of paper and a thumbtack can stick a message on a bulletin board (and many do); likewise, anyone with a computer can create a web site. It is up to us to tell the good from the ugly.

Responsibility

As a surfer, you have a responsibility to judge the quality of a site's content. One way to do so is to know something about the person or organization that developed the site. Is it a site sponsored by a respected individual, a legitimate corporation, the government, or a school? If so, then the site reflects their reputation.

For example, if you want to find out something about space, you're better off at a site like http://www.nasa.gov, the home of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, than you are at a site like this:

http://www.im-a-nut.com/space/what-i-made-up.html

Another way to judge content is to take the recommendations of people that you trust. If you're researching on the Web, ask the opinion of someone who knows about what you're looking for. Finally, common sense will tell you if the material in the site is logical and orderly, or if it's confused, junky, and full of hate. If you're looking, it's not hard to spot.

As a publisher, you have a responsibility to publish thoughtfully, especially when your content involves students or student work. When you publish on the Web, anyone in the world can see what you publish. It is the responsibility of the people developing and approving the site to take proper care in selecting its content. Your school or organization may have policies regarding Web site content (e.g., use of student pictures, use of names) that you can consult. If not, there are many such policies posted on the Web. To see some examples, try a search on "school Internet policy."

The Power of Debate

The Web offers the ordinary person, for the first time in history, the power to publish. And while there may be some junk on the Web, there is also a huge and ever-growing number of sites that are awesomely good.

And the Web offers one more possibility that traditional media doesn't offer: the ability to easily accept and incorporate feedback on content. The Web makes it easy to debate.

Before one of my favorite Star Trek reviewers on the Web writes one of his Star Trek TV or movie reviews, he is bombarded with emails from people like me who have read his previous reviews, know he's writing another one, and want to get an opinion voiced. Every once in a while, I see something I've sent to him appear in his reviews. Sometimes it's good, like "An alert viewer has pointed out ..." Sometimes it's not so good, like "Well some people complained about ..." And of course people email him to agree or disagree with his review. But the point is, their voices are being heard, often before he even writes his review, so the content of the review is modified as it is being created!

A book is a splendid thing, of course, which is one of the reasons Wanda is putting the content of this web site in a book as well as on the Web. But once it's printed, the words are fixed. I can't tell you about recent feedback; I can't post new chapters or add information; I can't give you a list of people who have created web sites using this material. For that, you have to come to www.wigglebits.com.

Web sites will never replace books, but they do make mighty companions!

Over 2500 years ago in ancient Greece, Socrates invented a three-step method of teaching involving a dialog:

Thesis - you make an statement
Antithesis - someone disagrees
Synthesis - you both create a clearer statement by integrating the statement and its counter-argument.

It took 2500 years but with the Web we finally have an ideal tool to implement the Socratic Dialog.

Intro | Comm | Pub | Five Easy | Web Ed | Found | Squeezing | Standards | Animate | Epilogue

 

All contents copyright (C) 1999-2007 Wanda Wigglebits. All rights reserved.