How did the Internet appear in our lives,and what role does it play in our lives at the moment? How much does it help? Does it enslave? Hurt? Make us grow? Or do we already cease to notice that we have handed over the reins of technology,and that we control our situation poorly? Nina Johnson was looking for answers to these and other questions together with Michal Kučerák, curator of the Datamaze exhibition in Prague's DOX gallery.
How did it all begin?
Initially, computer technology had to serve exclusively the benefit of society.
„The Computer – we need to realize it – is actually military technology. It was developed because military and security organizations needed to break through encryption, Enigma, etc., and there was a need for a system that helped you to hit a flying target with a rocket. This is a very demanding calculation – you have to calculate the plane‘s flight, fire at the exact moment, and then hit the target“.
Arpanet – the so-called ancestor of the modern Internet – was a network that united the military and educational sectors (universities) in the United States. Beginning in the 1970s, large companies started to join it – Apple, Intel, Microsoft.
The main element in the Datamaze exhibition is the chronological axis, on which, using color, significant milestones in the development of software and gadgets are highlighted. Also negative points are noted – the emergence of spam, viruses, and cyber attacks.
„…the first viruses appeared in the 1970s, so the technology developed quickly. The Trojan horse appeared in the mid-1970s, the first spam in 1978. Spam is progressing at this point.“
The world finally changed in the 1980s, when personal computers entered a mass-market, and then the Internet as we know it today — that is, the World Wide Web (www). At the turn of the century, the circle of users changed along with the system itself: the WWW was replaced by the so-called Web 2.0. The format of information has also been transformed: previously you found mainly texts there, now they are supplemented by pictures, photos and videos.
„At the time Web 2.0 arrived on the scene, the phenomenon of social networks appeared and allowed users to create content without knowing any sophisticated or demanding technology. You have MySpace, LinkedIn, Tumblr, where you can create your personal profile. There you can share the music you hear, your professional skills,or write a blog. It’s not just about social networks, it’s about the fact that almost everyone can set up a page by now“.
It was quickly discovered that such creative freedom has its own dark side – users began to lose control over the distribution of their own created data.
„It is currently estimated that users are overtaken by bots, automated devices that communicate with each other and transfer significantly much more data to each other than ordinary users. So, we are gradually moving to a new level, which is more about artificial intelligence, in the context of digital technology. We are not far from there, but we are not there yet. We are in a phase when we are creating systems that we call neuron networks. They are capable of engaging in autonomous activity. However, in my view, artificial intelligence is a buzzword, not a real state of affairs“.
What is it, Big Data?
„Big Data is nothing but large volumes of data. Imagine the Excel table, and then imagine that each box contains some information, some numbers. Then imagine how far down you can scroll, how much to the right, how many bookmarks to do there – until you get to the end of this table. And right there, Big Data will start.“
What is it, the Deep Web?
“We can divide the Internet into two parts – the visible one, which accounts for less than 10 percent, and the larger one, the Deep Web. These are data we do not see. The Deep Internet is hidden behind user logins.
So, if you want to go to your school page or to internet banking, then you go there and find your profile on the propriate web. As soon as you sign up or enter your password, the invisible, the deep Internet starts. Other users can not see it, it’s your environment.“
What is the Cloud?
„The Cloud is nothing more than a large industrial hall, where you have basically a computer room instead of a rack. Servers where the data are stored. The difference between the computer and the server is that the computers are optimised for various tasks, the server is optimised for one particular task, perhaps to transfer one type of data as needed. Specialisation increases system performance.“
Online reality consequences – what are they?
- My public privacy
Having a page in the social network, we consider it to be our personal space, forgetting that we have a friend list of 1500 people. Even if you post only cats and flowers, a medium-sized concert hall is watching you do this. What a personal space!
- I’m ill and you know it?
It is not even about the fact that you risk your finances by entering the card number on a suspicious site. More and more areas of our life are gradually moving into online mode – including health care. And who knows who can use information about the diseases of patients and for what purpose.
- Word will teach you to write, Paint will teach you to paint
The number of people who use paper and pen every day is getting smaller. But we know exactly that text can be written in Times New Roman or Cambria, have a line spacing of 1.5 and a size of 14. A Word program sets up a formal framework in which we have the right to express our thoughts.
- The new drug called Like
It is well-known that the creators of Facebook consult with psychologists frequently. As a result, a device that made people addicted to Likes was created. The same applies to Instagram and other social networks where the degree of your content’s approval is measured in “hearts” or “raised thumbs”. Remember how many times and how often you visit your page after you post a new photo – just to check who has already managed toregisterthe coveted Like? And if you feel frustrated about the lack of Likes or envy because of their number – well, the addiction is obvious.
- Same uniqueness or unique sameness
That is how you can describe what is happening in social networks. Compare the pages of popular bloggers: postures in the frame, outfits, posts themes, accessories, photos of interiors and exteriors, locations,the visual design of pages – despite the differences in details, the overall picture is identical. Another thing is interesting: they all continue to consider themselves totally different from the others.
- The Internet – the factory of new professions
Just 10 years ago we had no idea who the SMM manager was, or an online marketer, or a website promotion expert, or a beauty blogger. We did not know that it was possible to have your own channel in Telegram and to be a so-called influencer. And we certainly did not know that it was possible to attend fitness classes or get advice from a psychologist online.
- Smartphone and idolatry
In human culture,from time immemorial, there was idolatry. Having an amulet, keeping it safe and attributing miraculous properties to it – this description suits the way we perceive phones now.
“…The phone, this magical device that connects you to the whole world, with your mom, tells you where you are or recommends a restaurant or a club. There is a Czech students‘ project from UMPRUM – they scratch people’s phones, or ask people to do it by themselves. Telephones have become such a sacred thing for us, it seems we care only that nothing happens to them. So within the framework of that project, guys tried to stop people from granting this technology such power“.
- Tinder: pay money, meet more
„It’s interesting – I mean paid Tinder profiles. You get a better offer thanks to spending money, which is a crazy idea itself. So far I don’t know of any relationships that have started on Tinder and have continued, but I believe it is possible“.
- Online doesn’t equal offline. Did you forget?
By counting the number of messengers and online means of communication, we barely can see the difference between common chat in a cafe and a skype video call. And then we are surprised and annoyed when a member of the older generation who has not succeeded in mastering the newest technology blames us. “Mum, I’ve already sent you photos by WhatsApp, what’s going on with you?!”
- Try to find me!
The Internet has complicated searching for information. There was a time when all you needed to do was to visit a library to receive or not receive a paper, a book, or a journal. Now you turn to the Internet immediately. But in order to find something useful you have to swim through gigabytes of stupid pics, advertisements, doubtful articles,and unverifiable sources. And then, when you discover it, totally exhausted, you finally find out that it’s blocked by the author or access is limited and you have no idea how to get what you want. It’s especially challenging to get what you want when it’s a science database.
- Free share to gain profit
Musicians quickly realized that the Internet is, above all, an opportunity to introduce their work to a great number of people. Therefore, instead of swearing overcopyright infringement, Radiohead distributed their music on the Internet for free, increased the number of their fans and then started earning – people gave money willingly for tickets to concerts and platinum albums.
- Hey, man, where do we actually go?
It turns out that it is not necessary at all to know the city if you want to be an Uber or Taxify driver.
„I was surprised when I found out that my driver was just following the cursor on the display and admitted that, in fact, he had no idea where we were going. That is, the driver, in fact, is not the person at the steering wheel, but the algorithm that controls him. And now, for a second, imagine that the application stops working, and the passenger is a tourist. They just won’t get to the place they need to get to.“
- Life and shopping in the Darkness
The Dark Net – this is the name of the deep, hidden-from-ordinary-users part of the online space that you can use as you want. On the one hand, various civic activists conduct encrypted communication there; on the other hand, people sell weapons and drugs there.
- Digital detox is almost impossible
If before it was necessary to make an effort to be online, now you need to make an effort to be offline.
Parents panic if you don’t call them by Skype in the evening. A colleague asks what happened – they say, you have been on vacation for three days already, but there are no pictures from the beach on Instagram yet. You want to buy a jacket in astore, and the sales person says that this model can be purchased only in the e-shop. You try to find out the exam date, and the teacher promises to post a schedule in the faculty’s information system. You ask your friend how he wants to celebrate his birthday, and he promises to create a special group on Facebook and discuss everything there. And finally, your boss is just furious if you answer emails in a few hours, not minutes.
All of the above points are the mixed results of technical progress, which is unlikely to be suspended in the near future.
Thus, it is in our power to adapt to it, trying not to lose touch with real reality and make the right decisions.
It depends on you to come to visit your friends with a cake or limit yourself to Facebook communication. Go and search for the right thing in a regular store or regularly increase e-shops sales. Do not enter the Dark Net jungle or use it wisely. Ask parents not to worry and determine the call schedule or pick up the phone every second.
After all, yourself digital detox while you still have this possibility – this is really a luxury feeling.
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