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Is The Internet Being Reinvented?
- Apr 2014 -

We hear the phrase ‘Better World’ bandied about a lot….”building a better world”….”fighting for a better world”….or the one we have on our website…”Designing a better world”….but what do we mean by that? What would a 'better world' look like? I guess this is where it can get subjective.

No doubt we all have different visions of what a better world might mean, although of course there will be many shared ideas too. To help answer that, I’m going to single out one phenomenon that I believe has already created a much better world, although the real ramifications of it won’t be fully felt for a long time: the internet! A comparison that is often made and one that I subscribe to, is that in many ways the internet and its impact resembles the Gutenberg printing press of the 15th century.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented his version of a printing press, it went on to change the world in extraordinary ways. For the first time, the written word could be reproduced at speed, thus enabling books and journals to explode. News, information, and ideas were spread and exchanged in unprecedented ways, people became empowered by new knowledge and the transformation is credited for being a major part of the Renaissance period. Fast forward to today, and it would be hard to argue that something similar isn’t happening right now, and we’re only 20 odd years into the life of the internet.

It has in itself created a global platform of innovation, resulting in paradigm shifts across the board. At the core of its transformative nature was a decentralised platform. It belonged to no-one and in most countries it was neither controlled nor censored by anyone. It has empowered and inspired individuals the world over to learn, discover, connect, collaborate and innovate. Unfortunately, that decentralised dynamic has been somewhat eroded in recent years.

A few major corporations now have incredible internet dominance in how information is distributed, and governments are increasingly trying to impose their control. But I’m very excited because I think we may be seeing the internet in itself at the very early stages of being reinvented.

Individual and communal empowerment is a difficult trend to reverse.

One new decentralised platform that has made headlines recently is Bitcoin. We will see whether it fulfils its disruptive potential in the financial system but even if it doesn't, its core technology as an open sourced peer to peer decentralised platform will not go away, and already we are seeing new similar platforms to emerge that could constitute the next major evolution of the internet itself. People’s visions of a ‘Better World’ might vary greatly. Indeed, at Zinc we think design can play a huge role in many different ways but I’ll be talking at Webvisions Barcelona on why I think personal empowerment will continue to change the world for the better, and why we need to embrace decentralised platforms to make that happen. 

Below is a link to the the abstract on the Webvisions site: 
http://www.webvisionsevent.com/session/the-internet-2-0

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