Perhaps you've heard the rumblings about "Net Neutrality"? It hurts my head, I have to admit. So I was glad to read this post by Wil Wheaton.
We've all taken for granted that we'll have equal access to the Internet, both as consumers and as creators of content. Right now, very powerful, very greedy, and very un-democratic businesses are trying very hard to take that away from us. They must be stopped.
It's a really great post, so go read it and come back because damned if I could lay it out any better. The end of the post has links to all the great and easy things you can do, including signing the petition over at Move On. Oh, go do that now, too. Like right now, they're voting next week!
No worries, I'll wait.
You know, I can't help thinking that a lot of what's going on with the Internet now has to do with this concept of "expert voice" I keep reading about. Some people like to say that people need (and indeed want) "expert voices" to guide them. We need authority to tell us what's going on in the world and even what movies to watch or what morals to have. All this easy access to information and individual thought is sending the world to hell in a handbasket, clearly.
All of us having the Internet as a platform to say whatever we want - even though we aren't "experts," well, it's just down right dangerous. American citizens engaging in free thought and open communication! How ever will the people who are currently in control maintain control if we're all out there connecting with each other and being free?!?!
Who am I to think for myself and then - gasp - communicate to others?
For example, perhaps it's a little more absurd to say gay couples are destroying the fabric of society when they're all being great parents and good citizens and having the audacity to blog all about it for the world to read day after day after day. Not to mention the damage done when one's followers go and blog and put their ignorance on display.
And I'll go one further and say that blogging and commenting on Internet sites encourages writing and self-expression. And once people start writing and communicating regularly, they often start to increase their educational level - yes, even if they're rambling along in AOL kiddie speak. They are more likely to increase their world view. And intelligent, worldly citizens question. They observe and learn more. They suddenly want to know why they're being lied to, or why their local schools are abominable, or why their government can't handle a natural disaster with any semblance of efficacy. Oh, wait, we're all wondering about that one.
In entertainment, our changing access to diverse choices and voices means that people with the power to watch whatever movie they want and have it look and sound kick-ass are suddenly staying home to watch "Heat" on DVD instead of fighting the traffic and the ads and the added cost to see "Inside Man" at the theater. Suddenly, their butts on their couches becomes both a stronger vote than the studio choice about what to open on the most screens and, at the same time, illuminates a long ignored market for diverse entertainment product. Thank you AMC for realizing what's what and finding a way to capitalize on it. (Now, if they'd only stop showing commercials before they even play the commercials, maybe I'd start going to my local AMC again.)
Our world is in a period of accelerated change. I think it's great, and exciting, but if you're an "expert voice" or a powerful business looking at quickly eroding power, you're going to try to get it back. One way is to step up, look for new ways to move your box, and compete, like AMC deciding to support independent film or established writers and companies who rise above the fray by continuing to kick ass and by embracing what mediums work for them, new and old.
The other way is to declare the new to be dangerous, fight against it, and try to win back the control you've already lost and lost and lost again. Not by rising to the top on your merits or by creating new systems, but by pushing down the competition and trying to legislate your continued power.
Look, the Internet is still a bit of a wild, wild, west. And certainly, for example, I still read the New York Times and appreciate their in-depth reporting and value their long-earned reputation. There is a place for that "expert voice." There is a place for all of us.
Let's keep it that way.