Perspective: An era of sharing - A love letter to the Internet - The South End: Perspectives

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Perspective: An era of sharing - A love letter to the Internet

How the age of torrents, Youtube and Facebook has turned the world into a universal cultural stew

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Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:20 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

It starts with an absurdity.

A cat plays a keyboard. A man breaks down at the sight of two rainbows. Bill O’Reilly tells his crew that he’ll “do it live.” Two men rap about seeing the Chronicles of Narnia. Charlie bites his brother’s finger.

The viral video is a testament to the power of the Internet. Within moments of being uploaded, videos, pictures, articles, blogs, music and other various media find their way into the homes of people around the globe. And all because someone they know received a link from a person who received a link from some anonymous person who shared it with the world.

This culture of sharing has become just that: a culture. This Internet civilization has written smash-hit videos as their ancient myths, created languages all there own and shared everything. From recipes to auto repair to dating advice to any number of how-to projects, people came in droves to the Internet and gave their trade to the world.

A link would circulate at enormous speeds and be written into legend by the end of the week. The most popular of these would become Internet inside jokes called memes. Memes are a foundation to which Internetarians communicate, and the greatest meme of them all, when someone sends you a link promising something exciting but instead it ends up being a link to Rick Astley’s 1987 hit song “Never gonna give you up,” is perpetuated through this culture of sharing. It’s called being Rickrolled.

*Hello, my name is ________*

Every social networking site every devised is undeniable evidence of this. Users are encouraged to share friends and followers and interests and personal information. It’s voluntary invasion of privacy at its finest. Even the word private has taken on a new connotation to mean something is less social rather than more private.

Websites like YouTube, to share videos; Napster, to share music; Flikr, to share photos; Facebook, to share all media and details of your life; Twitter, a short-hand of Facebook; thrive on this concept. And the company that profited based on this philosophy alone, Google, a website to share websites; is one of the fastest-growing companies in existence.

And on the Internet every medium, and every individual work within each medium, is created and uploaded equal.

*Cutting out the middle man*

The digitization of products brought the storefront to any home in the world. Record stores began to close. News became free and was beamed directly into people’s homes whenever they wanted it. Music sales were cut in half over a ten-year period while movie- and concert-ticket prices rose drastically.

World-retail economics is based on a dated system of physical money for a physical product. A band would play instruments, which would be recorded from microphones onto a wax press, which would be sent to a record-producing factory, which would press the wax into physical records, which would be packaged and shipped to stores, which sold the copies to customers using pricing based on shipping and manufacturing costs. Every record was pressed individually, which incurred a production cost.

It was a perfect system, until the world created an intangible product. Suddenly, the band recorded an album once, and the data could be sold and shared an infinite amount of times with no loss of the original information. They went from selling something to selling nothing.

*It changed the way people stole*

Then came the pirates. Pirating is the act of illegally obtaining and distributing digital material, usually through fragmented files called torrents. The mentality of pirating is Robin Hood-esk in that the pirates justify

Not that stealing is justified, but in reality redistribution only enhances the value of any piece of media. Movie and television and music studios are able to create revenue through so many channels their worries about piracy are moot. They syndicate, sell a mass amount of DVDs or send their artists on another tour.

Since the process of coping and sending a digital file is absolutely free, the actual cost of damages is minimal and every file downloaded can only be speculated as a “lost sale.” But once someone obtains a product they might not have paid for in the first place, it creates a respect for the brand within them.

Someone may download an album buy a band, but they’ll also go to the mall and purchase a t-shirt or purchase tickets to their next concert.

*An infinite town square*

The Internet is a marvelous place where strangers can swap data about computer processor speeds from across the globe and with the same ease with which someone could write a letter, perhaps easier.

It’s unlimited access to anything anyone could possibly want to know or discuss. And there’s no reason to judge the Internet or its contents, as hard as that may be, because it doesn’t exist to serve a purpose. It’s not there for ratings or revenue or profit sharing.

It simply exists to exist, and it’s up to the user to utilize it. There are critics who say it’s filled with garbage and town criers and morons, but they can simply choose to ignore those people. It brings the freedoms of our First Amendment to most of the world, aside from oppressing governments like China and Iran. It’s the equivalent of being able to grab a handful of cosmos and drape it around your neck.

It’s a vault of infinite wonders with unlimited access. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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