New Book Dispels Internet Myths
Whether you're a social-media junkie, a technological wizard or just wondering what effects the Internet is having on our lives, make room for a fascinating and enlightening book at the very top of your summer reading list: Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You, published by Guardian Faber [and out July 4.]
It's written by Internet Hall of Fame Advisory Board member Dr. Aleks Krotoski, a journalist, broadcaster and researcher who investigates the intersection between psychology and computer technology. She earned a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Surrey, England, in 2009, and is a presenter of The Guardian's podcast "Tech Weekly," as well as of the BBC 4 radio show, "Digital Human."
Dr. Krotoski says that for about the past 13 years, she'd been growing more and more annoyed with people saying that the Web is going to destroy civilization – and equally annoyed at those who say it's going to save civilization. The facts she uncovered in writing the book bust both of these myths.
I set out to analyze the phenomena and profound changes that people attribute to the Web. I looked at aspects of our lives as varied as community, friendship and hatred, both 'Before the Web' and 'After the Web,'" she says. Her research delivers a major surprise for the pundits: The Internet has caused very little fundamental change in people at all.
"The technology isn't doing things to us; it's a technology that connects people to people. If anything is happening, it's because we are doing it to one another," she says. "That's always been the case. The difference now is that everyone is able to see those changes without being physically present with the people who are changing."
As an example, she points out that, 'Before the Web,' only people with technological training and skills were able to create websites; today, we're all able to upload photos "and create beautiful treatises about ourselves." As a result, everyone gets to see, instantly, the ever-changing picture of who you are - and who you were.
Two major human feelings Krotoski feels are "under negotiation" since the advent of the Web: our feelings of identity and how we search for things or people. In her book, she delves into those two exceptions, and explains both how and why those parts of us are changing.
When we spoke with her, Dr. Krotoski had just ended a whirlwind, worldwide book tour, during which she drove coast-to-coast in the US, took a boat to the UK, flew to Asia and spoke at the Sydney Writers Fest in Australia and also in Aukland, New Zealand.
"I went around the world the wrong way," she laughs, still feeling a bit of jetlag. But while the tour had ended, there's no doubt buzz about the book – from the beaches to the book clubs – had just begun.