Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.1, no. 2, March-April, 1996
As a writer for a homepage dealing with recent East Asian Literature, accountability becomes a key liability. Of course, any works quoted or noted can be legitimately used, but what about personal arguments? I see no difference between the measure of accountability one has for digitally circulated material and that which circulates through print media. The Internet only creates a more instant tool by which one can distribute one's thoughts. Good writers tend to create works without the objective of a specific target reader in mind. Inevitably, only those interested in the subject matter will read the material. Those who are not drawn to certain subject matter will pass over such material.
While there are specific legislative guidelines as to what one can publish and sell in Canada, these laws are not the same in other countries. The Internet makes it easier for someone to export material which might not be acceptable in one country, perhaps for political reason, to another. From a creative and artistic viewpoint, this is a major advantage for a writer on the Internet. Someone like Alexander Solzenitsyn could have used this technology to its utmost potential. However, such lofty material is not the bulk of what one finds when browsing the bevy of homepage titles that exist on the Internet. There is a lot of garbage out there, but as the saying goes, "one man's garbage is another man's treasure." This vast network has its merits, but if accountability becomes the foremost issue, the Internet will lose much of what it currently offers -- variety.
One of the most attractive elements of this technology is the ease with which one can retrieve specific information . Server catalogues and search programs make the Internet entirely user-friendly. A short orientation or trial-and-error exercise can provide anyone with skills necessary to surf the net. Programs like netscape retrieve mass quantities of titles related to a basic word command. If I want to know what is going on in the village where I lived in Japan, I simply type "Dake Onsen." While specific homepage addresses are useful to know for daily use, information browsing is vastly simplified by browser programs.
The implications of this ability to instantly tap into pages around the world are great. As computer technology has evolved in congruence with modern fast-paced disposable lifestyles, it only increases the McLuhanistic global village reality. Television, print media and telephones pale in comparison with the potential of digital communication. One no long has to wait for a book to be posted from Australia, but rather can download one in a matter of minutes. In the realm of everyday business, for example, it is more efficient to send resumes to foreign countries, or to gain access to job postings through companies' homepages. E-mail is also a quick way to gain access to professors when I really need to.
Being involved in human communications, what the Internet can eventually offer me remains to be seen. My field of study centres on Japanese language, and there are not many learning aids for the advanced level offered through the Internet. I plan to translate and interpret language within the human medium, so my voice is more important than the ability to type something out that can be read on the other side of the world.
In the course of my personal experience on the Internet, one thing has become clear to me. I feel that important aspects of human communication could be lost if an over-emphasis is placed on the Internet's role. As the net evolves from its current state to one which is more encompassing, it seems that communication will increasingly be done in anonymity. There is a sublime joy in opening a letter from a friend from across the oceans, or in picking up an old dusty book and reading it. As well, from a writer's standpoint, I may be a bit selfish. The ease with which someone can access my own works may perhaps detract from the satisfaction of knowing he or she has to go out of his or her way to find it.
By and large, the Internet has allowed for a lot of amateur and unqualified material to be circulated. As far as the accountability issue goes, all writers should ultimately be accountable for the ideas they document. In a pragmatist's evaluation, I do recognize the Internet's ability to make work and communication more efficient. Things can get done more quickly, and information can be retrieved instantaneously. One must remember, though, that the Internet is only a tool. Creativity originates in the human mind, not in the medium he uses to relay it to the outside world.
Copyright © 1996 by the author. Information from this article should be attributed to the author.