Is the Web Making Us Passive?

Popular culture expert Adam Hanft – CEO of the branding firm Hanft Projects, co-author of The Dictionary of the Future: The Words, Terms and Trends That Define the Way We’ll Live, Work and Talk, who blogs for the Huffington Post and FastCompany and has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – recently said:

Even during the most heightened emotional outbursts, when people were mad over the bonuses being given to Wall Street, the people haven’t reacted. I wonder if with the Internet, we’re given the ability to vent and rant, and that releases everyone’s energy, and then people keep doing what they’re doing anyway. It seems like a curious psychological phenomenon.

This mirrors something I wondered aloud about last July in writing “Are We Winning the Battle on the Web? Or Are We Just Letting Off eSteam?” While the web is spreading long-buried truths for millions to see, it also may be bleeding off the energy we need to do something about the truth we’ve learned.

The Trend May Become More Pronounced in the Years Ahead

Indeed, the passivity-inducing potential of the Internet will probably increase in the future.

Specifically, in the coming years, the web will almost certainly be 3-D.

Moreover, it will likely become a multimedia experience, including virtual reality body suits (or at least headgear), smell and perhaps even taste (indeed, since there are only 5 tastes but thousands of different smells, it should be much easier to recreate virtual tastes than smells).

If the current Web is already allowing us to blow off the steam which we would otherwise channel into social protest, can you imagine how much more so in a 3-D, multi-media, full immersion internet? For in that type of virtual environment, we could go attend virtual protests complete with sights, sounds, smells and physical sensation, and our brain could be reasonably well tricked into thinking we really did it, thus taking all of the wind out of our sails and the fire out of our gut.

All of us – even political writers and filmmakers- need to guard against settling for virtual victories. We have to get out there and engage in real action in the “real world” as well, and to guard against a dystopian Matrix-like future where the virtual reality is wonderful but the real world is a nightmare.

This is not to say we should pull the plug. The Web is the greatest source of information ever created, and is catapulting some long-suppressed truths to the surface.

But we also have to take the second step of getting up, going out the door, and taking action to based on the truths that we have learned from the web.

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  • Tatiana Covington

    *It* is just a tool.

 

 

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