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The many faces of Internet Technology

February 7, 2010

While poking through Mashable this evening, looking for something interesting to write about, I came across three posts that at first seemed completely unique, but after consideration, were all connected. The first as a post about Google’s first Super Bowl advertisement. The ad to fun, “Parisian Love” uses google searched to tell the story of a young man’s adventure in Paris. Each search marks a milestone in his live – finding the right study abroad program, finding the cafe where he meets a woman, wooing said woman, finding a job in Paris, getting married, and having a kid. The ad essentially shows the influence Google has on our lives. We get directions, find important places, and make important life decisions based on the information we gather from our google searches. I initially questioned the extent to which this was true, but then recalled how I figured out which university I would attend for graduate school (google search: Journalism Grad Schools).

The second post I came across was a bit more difficult to understand the importance of. It featured a twitter-powered popcorn popping robot. At first, all I could think was “how pointless, and what a brilliant way of developing a new meme”. Tell people that by typing in “popcorn” to twitter, they’ll make this cool little robot start making popcorn somewhere in the world, and that’s possibly all you will be seeing on twitter for the next few days. But, an invention like this is actually cool, at the conceptual level. It’s a way of physically measuring the popularity of something on twitter, and how effectively that thing is being spread across the internet. Whether anyone needs that much popcorn or not is a completely different question (I’m sure it can be turned off at some point) but the idea behind it is kind of remarkable. We can now measure the memes, and get a slightly better understanding of how well and how fast information is spreading. The machine made it to mashable already – and I hope, if it’s still connected, that the guys who made it have a nice stockpile of kernels to keep it running.

The third post was a bit more serious in nature. It discussed the Internet communications slow down (almost shut down) in Iran. Just days before a major protest against the Irani President is scheduled to occur, reports of slowed connections have been coming from the country. The Irani government blames a damaged cable (located conveniently at the bottom of the ocean) for the slow down, and claims that it will be repaired by the end of next week. Text messaging has also been disrupted in the country, which the government claims is the result of “changing software”. These developments are suspicious, to say the least, but are also indicative of the power of an Internet connection. The Irani government learned its lesson from the last major protests against the government, in which the information coming from the Irani citizens spread faster than the government could control. So now, it seems, the Internet has become something governments fear (or at least, is more feared than before – when we take China’s great firewall into account).

The power given to individuals connected to the Internet is the power for individuals to connect with the world. It could manifest itself in a trip to Paris, in a bowl of popcorn, or in global support of an oppressed people. All three of these posts point to one way in which individuals can use the internet to change the world they live in, and it seems, when you take a step back and look at everything that is going on, that despite the loss to human interaction, to face-to-face contact and conversation, that we are all really more connected than we really understand.

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