I’ve been in love with the Internet ever since 1995 when I was first given access in my high school library. I remember spending lunchtimes exploring this amazing new world, figuring out what was inside and trying to work out ways to get around the school’s restrictive Internet filter. Almost 20 years later I’m still in love with the Internet, so much so that I am undertaking a degree that focuses on it.
As part of my studies I have come to understand that the Internet isn’t a single thing. It’s an intertwined assortment of technologies, both hardware and software, but also people, groups, and institutions. Almost every day I learn about new ways that the Internet’s capabilities are being used to innovate.
The most remarkable part for me is that many of these innovations are user-driven. Take the hashtag on Twitter for example. Twitter didn’t come up with that. Some guy called Chris Messina did. Messina encouraged reporters of the San Diego bushfires in 2007 to include #sandiegofire in their Twitter reports. The hashtag helped to organise the sharing of emergency information about where the fire was headed. Just as the hashtag helped to quell those fires, the phenomenon was ignited. Twitter profited immensely, but so did we all as the end-users of such an extraordinary communication channel.
Communication is the over-arching theme here. As a teenager I struggled to cope with the transition into the grown-up world (a combination of my parent’s divorce, an awkward adolescence and some mental-health issues) for two years I participated in an online community that allowed me to escape the bleakness of my situation. My time spent instant messaging and responding to my friend’s posts felt so much realer and more important than real-life did. The people I met and the connections I made got me through what I still reflect on as the darkest period of my life.
Humans are social creatures so the ability to connect with one another in difficult circumstances is nothing short of magical. This blog is an opportunity to explore and examine new ways people are using the Internet to create meaningful connections. To me, the hashtag represents just one of many opportunities that the Internet offers each of us to connect and share our lives with one another outside of the customary confines of time and space.
I hope you will join me as I examine and delve into the origins and roots of user-driven movements. My hope is to reveal how these emerging trends have made their way into our mainstream, globalised society.