Chris Biddle, Blog Editor (cbiddle@wwc) Visit the Blog: http://warrenwilsonecho.wordpress.com/
In 1996, the same year two Stanford PhD students began work on a new technique for surface that would eventually go on to become the biggest name in the Internet business, writer and essayist John Perry Barlow published online A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.
“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind,” wrote Barlow. “On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”
Barlow wrote at a time before things like Google, Facebook, and Youtube became household words. Cell-phones were still clunky and expensive. Newspapers were in high circulation, and compact discs were in high demand. The wave of digital information was yet to break and come crashing down upon us, but in some ways we could still see it rolling towards us.
In 1995, America Online introduced a “buddy list” feature on their browser, enabling subscribers to chat with other friends online, and it wouldn’t be long before the internet had the first widely used word in its very own language: lol. The same teenage kids that spent their homework hours IMing in their bedrooms were introduced to a file sharing program that gave them access to free music in 1998.
In the wake of Napster and the subsequent upheaval of the recording industry came the first version of the iPod in 2001. That same year, a revolutionary web-based encyclopedia that was open to nearly anyone to edit grew rapidly to include 20,000 articles. The term wiki would go on to earn its own in definition in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Facebook came online in 2004, revolutionizing the way Americans kept in touch with one another. In ten years, internet usage increased world wide by 444.8%.
In short, cyberspace has grown since Barlow drafted his declaration, both in its scope and in its impact on our lives.
But in many ways the internet has also shrunk, and fallen into the hands of a few wealthy, powerful, and power-hungry entities.
Warren Wilson students exhibit an obvious pride in their individuality, in the alternative lifestyles that our institution engenders.
In times of great change, both in our school and in the societal context in which it lies, it is this ethos of individuality that we must uphold in order to maintain our integrity. But everyone knows that. The bigger question is how.
We promote a ‘back to the land’ ethos in our desire for a more localized system of food distribution, in the mud-caked boots we track into the dining hall and library, in the earthy smell of gasoline and wood fire that fill the halls of the science building between classes. But in turning back to the land we have shown a cold shoulder to cyberspace, and the free-speech community about which Barlow wrote. We have missed out on the power of the internet to take something entirely personal and to make it universal. We have missed out on our opportunity for the type of change we all yearn for.
The Echo Blog will serve the Warren Wilson community as a means to break the barrier between this back to the land ethic and cyberspace, shatter the invisible bubble of the Warren Wilson campus, and carve a niche out of cyberspace that is our own.
Consider this essay a call to arms for submissions, suggestions, and considerations. Make the Echo Blog your voice in cyberspace, by forwarding on information that you think Warren Wilson students should know about, whether you create it yourself or just find it somewhere on the web. Allow us to create a reflection of the culture we have created, and in so doing announce our arrival upon the modern political, cultural, and natural world.