I attended a seminar last night entitled Social Media and Marketing in a Networked Economy (sounds very grand doesn't it?). It made me realise the significance of what is happening with the internet right now, what with blogs, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter and so on ... and it led me to think various thoughts of doom and armageddon (as what usually happens when I get freaked out about technology. Don't laugh - did you read about the military creating a defense system called 'Skynet". Helllooo? Haven't any of you seen the Terminator films??)
We have moved from a passive net experience (Web 1.0 as it is commonly known), where information is presented in a relatively static form, to an immersive and interactive one (Web 2.0) where the user actually contributes and takes control. No longer are corporations in charge, calling the shots and telling us what we can or can't create - it is the people who now have control in a cyber-whirlwind of hyper-democracy where anyone with a computer can create their own world, critique whatever they see, or contribute to the development of any product anywhere on earth.
Our social structure is changing and revolving around the web, where our community encompasses the entire planet - not just the street where we live (and more often than not, instead of the street where we live).
The thing is, it's not truly democratic is it? You see, not everyone has equal access to a computer and broadband internet. You could argue that there are things like libraries and grants available that enable poorer people to take part, but it's not the same as being able to comfortably afford your own kit (and upgrade it whenever you need to).
As the internet continues to grow at a frighteningly fast pace, it becomes more and more necessary to be part of it. That is where the so-called 'digital divide' is so acute - it's more than not being able to check you bank details at 3am just like everyone else. It means you can't participate. You become a second-class citizen who will quickly get left behind, while everyone else zips along the information hyper highway.
Me - I'll try and keep up, but if things get too much, I might just go buy a farm somewhere and live a simple life. No TV, no computer no mobile phone. Just me, my family, real neighbours and the smell of manure.