August 18, 2003

EVERYTHING THAT LINKS MUST CONVERGE?

Anglosphere: Converging universes (James C. Bennett, 7/28/2003, UPI)
Separate as the British and American information universes have been until now, a process of convergence has begun that will continue until there is only a single Anglosphere information universe. In this, the differences between right and left (for example) become more important than the distinctions of national origin. This process is already foreshadowed in the leading edge of the information universe, which at this point in time is the blogosphere -- the world of the Web logs, or blogs.

Several interconnected and mutually reinforcing developments are driving this process. The first and most obvious is the advent of the Internet and World-Wide Web. This permits flat-rate worldwide communications, ready access to the press of all nations, and, most importantly, the ability to link documents. Two things about the blogosphere are of particular interest: the ability of almost anyone with basic computer literacy to start and run a blog, and the practice of embedding links to other documents of interest. [...]

The blogosphere is still miniscule compared to the audience for broadcast and print media. (Although reporters are more and more relying on the blogosphere for research and background, and more and more aware that the blogosphere has the power to expose quickly errors that previously could be buried.) However, its denizens are disproportionately young and disproportionately well-educated professionals. They will likely set the tone more and more for the coming generation. Furthermore, the rise of the blogosphere will likely affect Britain disproportionately to America. [...]

Full convergence is still some time away, but it is coming, as surely as today's younger blog-readers will move into positions of influence as time passes. The parallel information universes will be tied together with the thread of Internet linkage. The informational Anglosphere, in the sense of the entirety of written and recorded information in the English language, is gradually becoming fully accessible through Internet and Web, and accessible without regard to national boundaries.

At some point linkage will be so fluid and transparent, and indexing and search so effective, that documents will cease to be stand-alone artifacts, and the entire body of information in English (and for that matter, the entire body of information in other languages) will become in effect a single artifact, probably the most complex human artifact ever to emerge. Intra-Anglosphere national boundaries will become rather weak demarcation lines within the structure of that artifact. Linguistic boundaries, on the other hand, will remain significant decouplers for the foreseeable future, resulting in a number of such massive informational artifacts existing in parallel. It is these that will be the parallel information universes of the future.

There are numerous caveats that come to mind, and leave one necessarily skeptical about bloggers driving the future, but one obvious underestimation here is that the continued geo-political/economic dominance of the Anglosphere and the Web itself are likely to speed the adoption of English as the world's lingua franca. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 18, 2003 11:41 AM
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