A theoretical day:
I wake up and check my email. My mother mailed to say “hi”, saveing long distance and allowing me to keep in better touch with my family. I also got mail from an organization I am in telling me about an emergency meeting- they could contact us all at once instead of having to call us one by one. I also got an email from a classmate. He wants some opinions on the quality of his essay.
I look up a recipe for vegetarian breakfast entrees. It has become a thousand times easier to find recipes that suit various diatary restrictions. After breakfast I check an online newspaper. Then I visit the Straight Dope, where I learn a few things and sharpen my debate skills. I am able to discuss the items I read in the news and learn more. After printing out my Geology class’s notes (they are online- you simply print them out and bring them to class, and you write what you learned in the lecture directly on them.) I take a moment to look at a few Geology sites our teacher has linked to, including interesting studies that I would probably never had access to otherwise.
After class I sit down to write a politics paper. First I check my school’s online card catalogue system to make sure the books I want are in. The book I need is not in, so I check online sources. Some of the sites are a little spurious, but others have important primary sources, like the exact wording of the Monroe Docterine. I post my essay on our classes messege board, where I will recieve feedback on it from class members before I write my final draft. I also send a copy to my friend, who is interested in the subject.
While I am still in a scholarly mood, I sit down and visit my Digital Arts class website. Besides the usaual practical information about class times and such, there is a comprehensive discussion board. I post a few comments on my ideas about the Universal Turing Machine. I also take the time to respond to a few of my classmate’s questions. Finally, I go to some websites on which my classmates have posted their projects. In such big classes, it is sometimes hard to have discussions and get personal. Thanks to the messege board we have a way of helping eachother and out proffesors have another way to get to know us.
Then I take the time to update my own websites. I used to write little maganzines, but the huge expenense and small distribution of independent publishing got me down. Perhaps the best thing about the Internet is that it allows everyone with access (an increaseing amount if you factor in libraries) a chance at publication. Before only those that could afford paper and printing and distrubution costs could get their views know to a wide adience. The Internet is a free-for-all, and all that matters is the quality of your messege. The Zapatistas were the first to use the publishing power of the Internet to political ends. Endless oppertunities now exist for marginalized groups (and yes, a lot of crackpots) to get their voice out and be heard. And strangely enough, a lot of people, like me, do a lot of work to publish useful good things on the Internet for no tangible reward except perhaps a tiny bit of fame. The Internet is one of the few proofs that people really are motivated at times to work out of the goodness of their hearts and desire to build up society as a whole. A lot of the Internet was built volentarily. For example, one person hooked up a lot of Africa to email for no monitary return. Other people are on volentary instant response teams to fix things if major parts of the Internet go down. The Internet is one of the few succesful projects that rely on collective goodwill.
After talking to a few of my high school friends (who are scattered at various colleges) on Instant Messenger, I download a few hard-to-find songs by local Sacramento bands on Napster. After moving to Santa Cruz, it has been harder for me to get exposer to new bands in my hometown. Thanks to Napster, I have found many new artists to listen to, and buy CDs from. While some of the larger bands balk, a lot of local and unknown musicians rely on Internet distribution to get heard, and make their real money off of live shows. Putting out a record on your own is expensive, and lables are picky and restrictive. Musicians now have some freedom from that. As a filmmaker, I acknowladge that film may soon experience a renaissance due to Internet distribution. Already the short film has gone from being an art-house oddity to a popular and respected art form, thanks to short film distribution website. This distribution also allows young filmmakers that chance to be seen by those in a position to help them become famous filmakers. This isn’t just a music and film thing, either. The Internet has revolutionalized such things as poetry, puppetry and fantasy artwork.
Although Napster may have a bad name, it has a lot to do with freedom of speech. Freenet, an anonymous napster-like program, may hold the key to worldwide freedom of speech. On Freenet, one can post anything and read anything anonymously. Revolutionaly pamphlets calling for Democracy in China will be changed from illegal and dangerous items furitivly passed around to items freely read and written. Information control, long a tactic of authoritarian governments, may be no more. Whether the authorities like it or not, the 'Net might just bring forced freedom.
I check my bank account online, to make sure my finances are going well. Satisfied, I check the greyhound schedule to see about going back home for the weekend. I am unhappy with the schedule, so I check Amtrak. I reserve a pair of tickets. I also buy a couple books online. Our college bookstore ran out of books for one of my classes and they arn’t availible at bookstores in town, happily I can find them, even used and out of print books, online.
Relaxed, I sit back and play Pimpwars, and online game. All the while, I am running SETI At Home, a program that processes radio telescope information when your computer is idle and sends it back to people looking for life on other planets. Millions of computers around the world have allowed them to process information that they do not personally have the resourses to process. Finally, I look up a public domain bedtime story and go to sleep.
The Internet has changed my life for the better. Besides such nice things as easier shopping, it has revolutionalized art, music and basic human freedoms. I look forward to more wonderful things in the future. It has made my life better today.