Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lost in the web

Like any new technology, the internet is being used in many ways - for the good and the bad. The real triumph is the possibility to communicate with people all over the world, and having access to news and views from other countries. This is threatening "closed" societies like communism in China, which holds the sad record of having the most journalists in jail of all countries (perhaps not so surprising with over one billion of Chinese people around). Here's the interesting site of Radio Free Asia which is based in the US.

Optimists see the world getting smaller and flatter (see here for some criticism - in Dutch - of Thomas Friedman's book). We might wonder if that is not just another western prejudice, say something like the opinion that democracy is the universal political system. The internet is also the place where animal rights activists, radical islamists and extreme right neonazi's share very different kind of views among each other. To me it seems that the world is getting more and more chaotic, though I would deny nobody the right to live in an open society based on the rule of law.

A different question is whether the "blogosphere" on the world wide web will replace traditional journalism. The problem remains the accountability of the growing armada of bloggers. Most people still trust their familiar media, because these cannot afford to lose their reputation and credibility. So while there are millions of blogs, most people just visit a dozen favorite sites on a daily basis. Someone who has become disappointed with the new media, is Vincent Maher, a former enthousiast. Another critic, Dante Chinni, rightfully remarks that the truth is somewhere in the middle:

For all the fretting, blogging ultimately is bound to be less a replacement for the traditional media than a complement. The fact is, journalism's most critical responsibilities in a democratic society - seeking, reporting, and analyzing news and holding people accountable - aren't easy to fulfill.