On ‘We, the Web Kids’

Intel inside

I thoroughly enjoyed reading We, the Web Kids, and could probably have picked a quote from any paragraph to highlight it’s quality. But I’ve picked one in particular as it connects with one of the themes I’ve been writing around here for the last couple of weeks. That is: paying the artist. Like Piotr, I’m happy to pay for the art I love. And whether it’s a painting, sculpture, performance or book, I’d like to pay the artist as directly as possible. In this extract, he captures some of the motivations excellently:

“Why should we pay for the distribution of information that can be easily and perfectly copied without any loss of the original quality? If we are only getting the information alone, we want the price to be proportional to it. We are willing to pay more, but then we expect to receive some added value: an interesting packaging, a gadget, a higher quality, the option of watching here and now, without waiting for the file to download. We are capable of showing appreciation and we do want to reward the artist (since money stopped being paper notes and became a string of numbers on the screen, paying has become a somewhat symbolic act of exchange that is supposed to benefit both parties), but the sales goals of corporations are of no interest to us whatsoever. It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form, and that instead of accepting the challenge and trying to reach us with something more than we can get for free they have decided to defend their obsolete ways.”

Piotr Czerski (translated by Marta Szreder)

However, while the whole text resonates with me, if it were read as a manifesto, there’s one section I’d caveat before offering my support:

“To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others.”

That’s true; but it’s a blessing and a curse, and the subtle implications are important. The web offers us instant everything, and as with all new technologies, like clocks and cars and computers, it changes the way we use our brains. And the way we use our brains shapes the people we become. The example from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows that always sticks with me (probably because it supports what I want to believe anyway!) is that the part of our brain used to imagine, follow and remember a complex idea in detail, say when reading a novel or studying a topic in great detail, is the same part of our brain used to feel compassion.

And it is up to us how we exercise our brain.

Hat tip to Ade for flagging upĀ We, the Web Kids.