Thursday, January 6, 2011
By Paul Ford
I look forward to your feedback.
The Fundamental Question of the Web
One can spend a lot of time defining a medium in terms of how it looks, what it transmits, wavelengths used, typographic choices made, bandwidth available. I like to think about media in terms of questions answered.
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But the web is not just some kind of magic all-absorbing meta-medium. It’s its own thing. And like other media it has a question that it answers better than any other. That question is:
Why wasn’t I consulted?
Why Wasn’t I Consulted?
“Why wasn’t I consulted,” which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.
Brace yourself for the initial angry wave of criticism: How dare you, I hate it, it’s ugly, you’re stupid. The Internet runs on knee-jerk reactions. People will test your work against their pet theories: It is not free, and thus has no value; it lacks community features; I can’t believe you don’t use dotcaps, lampsheets, or pixel scrims; it is not written in Rusp or Erskell; my cat is displeased. The ultimate question lurks beneath these curses: why wasn’t I consulted?
Phi Beta Iota: This is Epoch B leadership emergent. Smart phones are stupid–they are walled gardens. The Industrial Era “owners” including Microsoft are having real difficulty understanding that the information commons is now outside the wall, and cannot be owned or controlled, only shared and made sense-of. The cloud is stupid as well–until someone “gets” the concept of call centers empowering the poor free, one cell call at a time, while harvesting the questions–Hackers in Silicon Valley understood this in 1994, but Silicon Valley–notably Oracle and Microsoft–are still focused on walled gardens. 5 billion poor, four times the annual economy of the one billion rich–really does not seem that complikcated, but evidently it is.