Virtual Choices, Real Effects: The Impact of Our Hyperlink Trail

“...we always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.” —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag ArchipelagoRobert Frost’s most recognizable poem is probably his most misunderstood. Despite popular opinion, “The Road Not Taken” is not an anthem to the individual or a smug reflection on the speaker’s decision-making acumen. Rather, it’s a meditation on time, mortality, and finitude. It’s about human limitations. Two roads diverge but only one can be taken. At the crucial decision point, Frost may … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: Are Online Comments Still Worthwhile?

YouTube and Popular Science recently announced new policies that either add greater restrictions on comments or remove comments altogether. In this social age, it seems like a given that people can comment on, well, just about anything on the Web; when sites take such actions, it may seem odd, perhaps even insulting. But as more sites take drastic measures regarding comments to combat spam, trolling, etc., perhaps we need to rethink the necessity of comments to begin with. … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: How Should We Write When Words Are Cheap?

Should writers be 'compensated' for their words? How important is your 'voice' as an author? What of truth? Do you have to 'live a story' to write well? What of some of the more popular modes of internet writing? Do single-sentence, bolded, paragraphs shape, or mis-shape us? Matthew Lee Anderson reflects on the pitfalls, joys, and challenges of the writing vocation in an internet age when words are bountiful and cheaper than ever. … [Read more...]

ELSEWHERE: The Digital Age’s Growing Inequalities

An increasing number of common, everyday tasks -- e.g., paying bills, completing homework, applying for jobs -- assume that people have Internet access. Which, in this age, is not unreasonable. But what happens if you're one of the 100 million Americans who have no way of accessing the Internet at home? … [Read more...]

Quitting The Internet Won’t Make You A Better Person

Several weeks ago, I wrote that there are times when I'd like to see the Internet burn to the ground. The event that I describe in that article, and the resulting controversy, vitriol, and hatred, might lead you to think that there's something off-kilter about the Internet itself. That maybe the amount to which we put ourselves online is having deleterious effects, and that if we spent a little more time offline, we might be better off as people.There may be some truth to that -- much has … [Read more...]

‘Donglegate’ Makes Me Want To Destroy the Internet

As a matter of principle, I tend to think the Internet is a Good Thing. It puts unimaginable amounts of information at the fingertips of people the world over and provides us with a multitude of ways (e.g., personal blogs, Facebook, Twitter) that we can use to communicate and share our lives with each other. It can give a voice to the voiceless, such as dissidents living in oppressive regimes, and can be used to hold the powerful accountable. And on a more personal level, the Internet has given … [Read more...]

Welcome to the Grid: How Living on the Internet Changes Everything

What if we don’t live in a world of divided realms but rather, a world where the digital and the physical exist together as an "augmented" reality?"The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I'd never see. And then, one day... I got in." -- Kevin Flynn, Tron: Legacy Ever since the computer’s invention, science fic … [Read more...]

What am I cheering for when Anonymous takes on Westboro Baptist Church?

Westboro Baptist Church -- the infamous "Christian" group known for their virulently anti-gay agenda and for protesting soldiers' funerals -- further cemented their status as one of America's most hated groups when they announced that they would protest a vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to "sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment." The reactions came swiftly: Counter-protests were called for and a White House petition to have W … [Read more...]

Why are we so mean on Facebook?

We've all seen them. We've probably even participated in them. I'm referring to those conversations on Facebook, often about politics or religion, that quickly turn ugly as people begin sniping and snarking at each other. (And it's not just on Facebook: have you seen a YouTube comments section recently?)Why are we so mean on Facebook? Why do seemingly innocuous posts quickly get ugly, and why are people so quick to fan the flames? Why are we willing … [Read more...]

Can't Access Your Favorite Websites? Blame SOPA/PIPA

If you were planning to get your daily fix of LOLcats or Facebook Fail images, settle an office debate regarding some obscure fact with Wikipedia's help, or spend some time perusing Reddit, then you've no doubt noticed something a little disconcerting today: All of these sites -- and many, many more -- have gone dark. It's not because they all forgot to pay their bills at the same time, but rather, that they're trying to raise awareness of two controversial bills that have been working their way … [Read more...]