Week 8 – Unplugged


Many of you may know who Tim Berners Lee is but some of you may not… Our eighth lecture revolved around what happens to our content after we unplug or disconnect ourselves from the online world. Where does it go? What is it used for? The blog today shall analyse Berners Lee letter about the world wide web, all these years after he was the very person to create it. This man is an absolute enigma. Without Berners Lee, there may have been no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, each representing an absolute success story, all down to the evolution that online technology has provided us with. On a personal note, as an avid user of the web, I find it extremely interesting to have a view of what he wanted to achieve by creating the web shared to us and whether or not, it has lived up to his high expectation.

The letter, as seen here, outlines how he envisioned the web that regardless of culture or geographical boundary, information could be shared and opportunities accessed by people from one corner of the world to the other. But, with every opportunity that comes, challenges are set to come also and Berners Lee vision of an open platform may come into doubt as he expresses his concern about three particular trends which have the capability of destroying this illustrious vision completely. These include:

  • Losing control of our personal data.
  • The spreading of misinformation on the web.
  • The need for political advertising to be transparent and comprehensive.

Losing control of our personal data is quite a serious issue yet could easily happen and that is one of his main worries. The first section of his letter revolves around the terms and conditions of websites that we agree to but ask yourself the question; do you sit there and read every single detail of what it is specified in the terms and conditions? I know I don’t and I’m quite sure that most others don’t either. The millennial generation has become the generation that will willingly hand over information of all sorts to simply access the service that they require without reading the fine print to these websites. It’s become a normality to simply just assume that all websites or online services require the same terms and conditions so naturally, we just hit accept but have we ever stopped to consider what exactly happens to our information after we hit that yes button. Once we accept it we lessen our control over our personal data and as Berners Lee describes it, the terms and conditions become the “all or nothing”. We gave it over so our fate is in their hands and this is exactly what Berners Lee wanted to avoid as he wanted to provide us with a free platform to explore to our hearts content.

In the eyes of Berners Lee, worry number two is the spreading of misinformation online. Clickbait has become quite a prominent feature to our everyday scrolling with websites often generating fake news to accommodate our search taste. These will produce headlines to catch our eye which will often have nothing to do with the article in the slightest! Websites such as Twitter and Facebook rely on ‘share factor’ and the ability of an article to go viral. It’s a vicious game and those with bad intentions to earn a pretty penny can reap the rewards very easily.

Lastly, the third point of political advertising can coincide with the previous points as targeted advertising is becoming a key factor to influence voters and generate opinions. The more money, the greater the advertising, and this was a key factor to the American election in which Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton would use their own form of advertising, whether ethical or not to slander the other. It’s a bleak world when choose to resort to that, isn’t it?

We have the power to alter the web for good and for bad and we can shape it into the web we want so WordPress community and those who have chosen to set eyes on this little blog, let us not forget the vision that Berners Lee had wanted it to be from day one.


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