One of the many ways in which the internet has altered society is the platform it has provided us all upon which we can have ‘our say’. From consumers using twitter to complain about the poor customer service of their mobile phone provider, to the way in which citizens harnessed social media to topple repressive regimes during the Arab Spring, the internet has given ordinary people a voice they may not have had before. For democracy and the rights of citizens this is undoubtedly a positive, but there is of course another side to handing people the power to broadcast what they want, when they want to the world.
A recent BBC report has unveiled car manufactures plans to have all new vehicles connected to the web within the next few years. In fact Intel, which will invest £64million over the next five years in the 'connected cars' claims that is already the third fastest growing technological device after phones and tablets.
As the voracious interest to watch, understand and contextualise real time events increases, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook are fast becoming the favoured source for live information. Many a time I’ve watched the twitter stream of an event or a story’s respective hash tag, hanging on every word like I’m in the middle of the action. Last week, as both London and the rest of the UK descended into anarchy, Twitter’s role in both reporting news (albeit sometimes with questionable accuracy or objectivity) and facilitating mobilisation efforts by both rioters and anti-rioters, has been significant.
Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, Linkedin; social network sites are the biggest cultural phenomenon of the last decade. They are emblematic of the 21st century; neatly encapsulating the accelerated, on demand and narcissistic post global, digital world we now inhabit. If the internet by definition is about interconnecting networks, then these sites are the purest manifestation of its raison d'être. They are changing the way we interact, the ways we think, feel, write and work. And in many ways, they are changing things in ways we are yet to realise.