Internet –The “haves” and “The have nots”

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
7 June, 2016
Editorial: 2
Fecha de publicación original: 16 enero, 1996

Date of publication: 16/01/1996. Editorial 002.

Everybody is wise after the event

Curiously enough, the best testing ground for measuring the effects of full participation or otherwise in this “Information Age” does not, at the moment, lie in the South (or as a friend of mine calls them “countries threatened by development”), but among ourselves: i.e. those who are and aren’t connected to this network of networks. This dividing line is already engendering two new classes, which I would define as the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’ of the Internet. This does not imply that the former– groups or individuals– are better, or more cultured (or more modern) or that they know more, or have more information or knowledge (two different things), while the others are pariahs. Not at all. The dividing line between “electronic wealth or poverty” is, above all, the fact that the mere act of entering and working within the net substantially changes one’s perspective of the information society which is forged by a dynamic that is hard to understand from outside the net. Surfing the net offers a vision rich in subtleties and content and practically impossible to transmit in words to “the other class”.

This wealth of information could be compared to that of the guide who climbs to the top of a ridge to study the landscape and outline a route for a group of travellers. The fact that he’s able from his new vantage point to enjoy a vision of two worlds, his own and the new one beyond, enriches his range of decisions and allows him to plot a course of action determined by the hitherto unknown factors which he was able to make out on the horizon. His actions–and this is what separates him from the rest– are based on unwritten laws which become more specific as his experience increases due to his privileged viewpoint.

The difference is that the Internet is not the top of a ridge. It is the peak of a mountain, although obviously not the definitive one. Also, there is not only one person climbing to the top but millions and they try from there to decipher a landscape defined by interaction among its inhabitants which would be inconceivable in the real world and endowed with a dynamism of its own. This interaction is not explicable or comprehensible by comparison with events in our daily lives. The latter lacks the magnitude of the audience, the density, immediacy and universality of relationships woven in the net. And, above all, the experience of forming part of an agora in which one person’s opinion is worth just as much as the other and this is only comprehensible as some kind of atavistic memory. As soon as an internaut begins to talk to one of the “have-nots” the enormous chasm between the information society and the industrial one is opened. One tries to explain what the valleys, rivers, forests, fauna and flora on the other side of the screen are like and the other person responds “But that isn’t happiness” or “Internet doesn’t solve our problems…” (read “political”, “existential”, “religious”,”material”, “sexual”, etc.) The distance between these arguments reflects–although still only superficially– the enormous breach which is beginning to open up between those who are prepared to take on the risks of participating fully in the information society and those who –voluntarily or involuntarily –contemplate it from the outside.

Translation: Bridget King