Anyone can set up a web site and point to all the other web pages. Everyone is a publisher. Everyone is a peer. That’s why it’s called a web. Individuals knit themselves together by linking to one another. Everyone tends his or her own little epistemological garden, growing ideas from seed and sharing them with anyone who comes by.
Making a shift to a more democratized internet won’t be easy. Once you start to rally your energies toward a more open future, you will be shocked by the forces arrayed against you; the intransigence of the people who want to buy and sell your information; the amorality of the hackers who play with millions of people for sport; the cold, endemic corruption of intellectual property and patent law; the infinite protections for copyright. It can get a person down.
We could still live in that decentralized world, if we wanted to. Despite the rise of the all-seeing database, the core of the internet remains profoundly open. I can host it from my apartment, on a machine that costs $35. You can link to me from your site. Just the two of us. This is an age of great enterprise, no time to think small. Yet whatever enormous explosion tears through our digital world next will come from exactly that: an individual recognizing the potential of the small, where others see only scale.
It's your domain. You cultivate ideas there – quite carefully, no doubt, because others might pop by for a think. But also because it’s your space to think.
Every young person who regularly uses a computer should learn the following:
- how to choose a domain name
- how to buy a domain
- how to choose a good domain name provider
- how to choose a good website-hosting service
- how to find a good free text editor
- how to transfer files to and from a server
- how to write basic HTML, including links to CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) files
- how to find free CSS templates
- how to fiddle around in those templates to adjust them to your satisfaction
- how to do basic photograph editing
- how to cite your sources and link to the originals
- how to use social media to share what you’ve created on your own turf rather than create within a walled factory
One could add considerably to this list, but these, I believe, are the rudimentary skills that should be possessed by anyone who wants to be a responsible citizen of the open Web—and not to be confined to living on the bounty of the digital headmasters.
It is common to refer to universally popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest as “walled gardens.” But they are not gardens; they are walled industrial sites, within which users, for no financial compensation, produce data which the owners of the factories sift and then sell.
A Room of One's Own
"No one can be close to others, without also having frequent opportunities to be alone."