Abstract - The Information Society 14(4)

The Meaning of the Web

Jim Falk

Speculation about the meaning of the "Net" (the Internet and potentially associated networks), and its most rapidly developing dimension, the "Web" (the World Wide Web). are both symptoms and components of a broader reshaping of world politics, economy, and culture. These changes challenges many of the categories within which we have grown used to thinking about the shape and meaning of society and its future. For individuals and local communities, the promises, hopes and fears associated with the growth of the web have particular poignancy as they face the challenge of establishing and asserting their identity in a ever more complicated and interdependent world, and through that, finding a strategy for achieving the sort of future they would like to live. The Net and the Web are technologies which promise us access to the world, but they and their associated social and economic trends challenge many of the premises upon which our identity is forged. The Net facilitates the development of new forms of transnational community organisation, opening up the promise of more effective ways of acting as citizens across the broader social terrains in which it must be expressed. This paper reconsiders the traditional theoretical tools which we have available to understand these issues. It addresses some of the central difficulties and possibilities available to us in re-thinking identity, exploring the new promising cultural potential of the Web and Net in a more integrated and simultaneously fragmenting world.

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