Friday, July 29, 2011

What is this "Internet culture" you speak of?

In the midst of these discussions someone said they were trying to protect "Internet culture" by keeping people with nyms from behaving badly.  Putting aside, for the moment, all the other things wrong with that assertion, let me address something very basic here:

There is no such thing as "Internet culture" anymore.  That's like talking about "telephone culture" or "movie culture."  There are some fine points of etiquette, and a few specific laws.  But culture is about people interacting with people, regardless of the medium.

William Gibson said, "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed" in The Economist, in 2003.  Parts of it have obviously caught up in this particular small case, in some larger parts of the world.

On the Internet, you can find dozens of subcultures.  There are the midwest moms who play Farmville in the afternoons and chat while their babies nap.  There are kids who play in Club Penguin, who might be kind of different from the older kids who play Puzzle Pirates, who are experiencing a different environment than the kids who are playing Wizard101 with their parents.  There are kids and parents and grandparents who love to spend hours chasing knowledge down through search engines and news sites.  There are whole networks who spend every available free moment creating their own real life soap operas on LiveJournal.  My own son leads a very highly rated team of amateur players in League of Legends.  There are bloggers and journalists, daytraders and hackers, people who monitor remote systems for huge tech companies or deliver customer service across oceans via chat systems.

None of these people represent "Internet culture" because there is no such thing.  There's no ghetto walls around the geeks anymore.  There's no elites, no 1337s, just lots of people doing what they do.  In fifty years, we've gone from locked air conditioned rooms full of big iron tended by men in lab coats, to billions of cells in the hands of men and women and children in nearly every nation.  It's part of human culture.

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