Let’s come out of the Net

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
1 May, 2018
Editorial: 197
Fecha de publicación original: 11 enero, 2000

Spin that top on your fingernail (if you can)

On the same day as the biggest merger in history, between AOL and Time Warner, en.red.ando enters its fifth year. Not that the one has anything to do with the other, but you never know. Only time will tell. The truth is that on 8 January 1996 we began to publish a weekly editorial –the first was called “The Intelligible Tower of Babel”– and since then, except for the month of August over the last three years, it has appeared without fail every Tuesday. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and we have certainly all got soaking wet. Since the publication of that editorial we have grown into a full-blown electronic magazine analysing different aspects of daily life on the Internet, their impact on people and organisations and how what we call the “Information Society” is taking shape. Along the way, we have been involved in organising “Maig 98” –an international congress on electronic publication–, and the design and imparting of courses and conferences all over Spain, Latin America and South Africa. We have published the book “En.red.ando”, a collection of all the magazine’s editorials through 1996-1997. And, in February 1999 we launched en.medi@, an online space for content generation and knowledge management through group work. And we are still convinced that this is just the beginning.

In these four years, the changes our societies have undergone as a result of the Net have been nothing if not spectacular. We are not going to go into them now; there is abundant material in en.red.ando on the subject and an excellent search engine to help us consult it. As one would expect, these upheavals in cyberspace have profoundly affected us too. People with requests to put the accumulated experience of these years to work in all sorts of different projects, to design online information systems, to apply en.medi@ to new and fascinating environments etc., are pounding on the door of Enredando.com, the company that publishes the magazine, and that means diversifying and facing up to new, unique challenges. Nevertheless, even if we have managed to keep going for four years, publishing original material and avoiding redundancy, a contagious syndrome, that has affected many of the new media that the Internet has given rise to, this is not the time to rest on our laurels and take a break. The laws of nature demand that we create, innovate and imagine even more than we have done so far. And that is the challenge that we love the most.

In these agitated times we are sticking to one simple and powerful vision: the secret is teamwork on the Net. We are a product of that vision. We could not have survived otherwise, as the numerous messages that we receive all the time — but especially at this time of year– testify to, and while some of the amazing praise we get from unknown friends almost makes us blush, at the same time we feel deeply connected to them through that vision and the aspirations and responsibilities that they imply. A big hug to all of them for their generosity. And just to let you know that if some of our projects have remained “stunted” the only reason, as always, has been lack of resources, and we are determined to get them under way because we believe they are innovative despite the fact that they were drafted two or three years ago.

Our aim is still active intervention in the Net and the modification of reality via joint action with internauts we share ideas with – and there is no need to go into that again now. In our modest, way we have been progressing in this direction. In the editorial called “The Digital Watchtower” I recalled that many readers thought that en.red.ando was deliberately provocative because, at a time when many people were claiming the indisputable supremacy of the audio-visual world, we were putting our faith in the written word and the value of text. They were right. And the provocation continues simply because we don’t believe much of what is usually said about the nature of the Internet, us, or the world we live in, especially what the apostles in the fight against one-way thinking tell us in the hope that we will all think like them. One-way thinking says that “there is too much information”, that “Net information is unreliable”, that “we don’t know where it comes from” or that “it is all just a lot of noise put there to confuse us” (as part of a very far-fetched plot or conspiracy).

We have, despite all this, developed en.medi@, a space where information is contributed by the participants and is reliable because we know who is emitting it, and because it comes with references and is easily tested, and this knowledge is managed in a moderated environment where agreements are reached via complex and enriching relationships. After all, we are not so silly as to think that when a number of people get together to create a new common living space, we are all reduced to a list of prefabricated formulas. There are 800 of us moving around within en.medi@ at the moment. For this reason, and our knowledge of other similar experiences confirms this, we believe that we are still at a fairly primitive stage of the social development of the Net. At the moment, encounters of a primary kind predominate –one up against the rest and the rest against one– which almost results in isolated personal relationships. The next step should be of the secondary type –everyone up against everyone — sustained by clearly defined collective relationships in spaces that are circumscribed by their activities, topics, aims, etc. We believe that en.medi@, along with other ideas on the drawing board, belongs to this new phase in the “Information Society”.

In the end, this means going for information production systems instead of the speculative systems that have been so successful over the last few months. For us, a fundamental part of the Net is what we defined a long time ago as the intersection or delta zone, a region rich in the ebb and flow of digital communication, made up of people ready to get into the Net and do things. And, on the other hand, it is the area where a large part of the activities developed in the Net should surface and make their way into society. We think this constant toing and froing from the real to the virtual is essential for constructing the “Information Society” and furnishing it with the meaning that the internauts themselves provide.

Enredando.com is going to embark on some projects with these characteristics. Not just digital information systems for the Net to develop new activities or adapt those that have been developed so far, but rather to give them a socially “ground-breaking capacity” which will enable them to have an effect on the real world. In future editorials we will explain some of these systems. And next year this time, we hope to be here still to comment on these experiences. That’s not a threat or a promise. Just a wish.

Translation: Bridget King