Content & Communication

The Web Black Hole

Written by Agnes Banks
Category: Content & Communication Published: Thursday, 02 June 2016 11:08
Hits: 1531

The web has changed things forever for people who are able to access information and share things in a way not possible for a previous generation… It has provided a new dimension through which to communicate. The scale is vast, with billions of online users, hundreds of millions of messages and 20 million pictures exchanged every single minute - not to mention billions spent. But before plunging into a long monologue, take a break. For fascinating hypnotic experiences, check out the numbers flashing on the Internet Live Stats, and then visualize the internet as a new space on The Internet Spatialized by Louise Drulhe. Did I say hypnotic?

The first article of this series, Critical Turning Point in the Transfer of Knowledgeleft us pondering over knowledge, gatekeepers, responsibility, and liability.

While Louise Drulhe seeks to discern the shape of the internet in order to understand the concrete issues and stakes involved, I was recently inspired by several conversations, published in French, with French philosopher Bernard Stiegler, and other thinkers. According to Stiegler, there is an urgency to act. With forcefulness, Stiegler points out that the transmission and dissemination of knowledge no longer work. The technological disruption touches and breaks our social structure at all levels: family, education, legal, language... 

The Evolution Of Communication

In the interview with Stiegler on Krisis, the journal for contemporary philosophy, Stiegler declares that the system does not produce pleasure anymore:

This society suffers from what he calls a state of generalized proletarianization. Proletarianization, Stiegler argues with Gilbert Simondon and Karl Marx, consists essentially in the loss of knowledge and know-how (savoir-faire) in individuals and collectives. Whereas nineteenth-century capitalism proletarianized workers by delegating their knowledge and know-how to machines, reducing them to labor power, twentieth-century capitalism has proletarianzed consumers by depriving them of their own ways of life and massively replacing them with preformatted and standardized ‘lifestyles’ fabricated and marketed on a worldwide scale by global corporations exclusively driven by profit. In today’s service economies, consumers are ‘discharged’ of the burden as well as the responsibility of shaping their own lives and are reduced to units of buying power controlled by marketing techniques. They have lost their ‘knowledge-how-to-live' (savoir vivre) and become ultimately deprived of the joy of life (joie de vivre). The much-heard slogan that our contemporary societies are ‘knowledge societies’ is a patent lie, according to Stiegler. In fact, today’s cognitive capitalism implies the systematic destruction of knowledge and the knowing subject...

Yet, the web has changed things forever for people who are able to access information and share things in a way not possible for a previous generation… It has provided a new dimension through which to communicate. The scale is vast, with billions of online users, hundreds of millions of messages and 20 million pictures exchanged every single minute - not to mention billions spent. For a fascinating hypnotic experience, check out Internet Live Stats

In March 2014, on the twenty fifth anniversary of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, hoped that on this:

...important milestone will spark a global conversation about our need to defend principles that have made the Web successful, and to unlock the Web's untapped potential...

 Jonathan Owen reporting Sir Tim’s speech in 2014 :

“His dream of a Web which is free and accessible to all is under threat as never before - with the forces of commerce and government spy agencies alike bringing issues of privacy and control over data to the fore. Sir Tim is calling on people to make suggestions for what they want the web to be, via social media using hashtag #web25 or online at

"If we want a Web that is truly for everyone, then everyone must play a role in shaping its next 25 years. I believe we can build a Web that truly is for everyone: one that is accessible to all, from any device, and one that empowers all of us to achieve our dignity, rights and potential as humans."

"The web is just a tool created by people - reflecting both the best and worst of humanity. It's not a utopian technology that can work outside of our existing social rules and structures," said Tilly Blyth, lead curator of a new permanent gallery which will open at the Science Museum in the autumn.

An old saying: It’s not the tool that makes the artist, it’s the artist that transcends the tool. If so, are we deliberately limiting our interactions with others to quick and short communications on social networks? Are we digressing back to an era with little mental capacity? This cartoon illustrates it well.

communication evolution

"It’s as if to say we are advancing in technology but digressing in mental abilities!”  Mike Keefe  

In other well-researched papers, academicians tell us to pay attention to the data economy, the economy of the Cloud. Based on the collection of our personal data, this data economy does not aim to transform information into knowledge. If it does it, it does the “supposed” transmission of knowledge in clusters of recipes, tips, broken down to bare simplicity and standardization, thereby killing any critical thinking opportunities and fundamentally true innovation. 

  1. The companies that collect our data do not mention the possible loss of data due to outdated technologies, or data that is damaged during the process of file compression to reduce archival space. Data archiving in the Cloud may not be the miraculous solution after all. It is a good tool, but it should not be granted the role of the keeper of the world’s knowledge.
  2. Tweets become news, misleading people. Advertisers continually bombard us with “edited” content, in the hands of marketing strategists who ignore basic ethical practices and regulations. The “edited” content is quickly channeled to the media where journalists don’t question the facts, repeating them like parrots, thereby influencing public opinion, changing the course of lives across the world. This is not caused by the “dark web” but by respected news presenters and politicians. It is not laziness, it is actual, voluntary deception. 
  3. Algorithms are controlling the information that we see. But don't only blame the corporations, or Google. The results of our articles, links, sites presented from search engines, are more and more based on our past usage history, by our location, by our selected preferences, bookmarks. Most internet users are not aware that in the aim to improve the quality of our content, we are limiting our access to diverse sources, opinion that would otherwise challenge us.

Polis on Newspapers MikeKeefe

Do we want to continue to disseminate information and transmit knowledge? If so, why and how? We are asking too few journalists these questions.

Stiegler calls to everyone, you and me, to help urgently, to change and transform the data economy, to disrupt the digital revolution, to transfer the capture of data and information that is currently under the control of only a few corporations, to work forward a better redistribution of information for the profit of all. Echoing Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Stiegler calls for:

"...researchers to contribute, not to go back to a vertical world, but to build a new web focusing on the valorization of knowledge and our singularities."

Globalization, Singularities, Pluralism

At the Museum of Manking in Paris, France, we are reminded that each one of us is a unique entity and that cultural, social structures, uniqueness of languages are not only proof of a rich heritage, it is also what ground us and therefore must be preserved. On one wall of the museum, you can read:

"Bonding with others is rooted in our brain, a veritable bridge between us and our follow humans. It has become a driving force in our species, whose 7 billions individuals live in highly diverse family and social structures. We all learn to belong to a group. When the rules are not directly taught to us, we pick them up on our own. As individuals and members of groups and societies, we make two sorts of distinctions, we recognize those who are like us and we mark our difference with others."


As we modify our environment, to improve the quality of our lives, the changes impacts our future genetic mutation. It is impossible to know at this stage if these changes will have a positive or negative influence. It is, therefore, impossible to foresee our long-terms evolution, but we can observe specific examples to help us see how we are performing as a society, as internet users, on a digital revolution ship in stormy waters. But we know one thing, the Internet is still at its beginning. We are just opening the gate to new frontiers. 

First published on June 2, 2016 on frontmatter.comCopyright © 2016 Frontmatter Limited. All rights reserved.

This is part 2 of 3 articles:

Part 1. Critical Turning Point in the Transfer of Knowledge, June 1, 2016

Paris - Trocadero

Part 2. The Web Black Hole, June 2, 2016

IMG 4832 blackhole 700

Part 3. Don't miss, coming soon:

A Web of Disruption & Innovation

IMG 4832 p3 lk


About the Author

I, Agnes, couldn't be more excited about the future of the internet, and its tools and techniques for putting it to good use. I've been building the FrontMatter site since 2013. I'm a voracious reader and as such find many great articles that allow me to peek into the future of the digital world. I put this site together to share what I've enjoyed reading and what I've found worth sharing. Also, I love talking to people in the digital arena. I absolutely love to hear from my readers. I welcome emails with thoughts, remarks, stories and suggestions. One last thing before I go - I would love for you to contact me and tell me about yourself, or even better, to go on the FrontMatter site and let us know your suggestions for creating a positive internet.

You made my day by reading this article. I'm very thankful that you've joined me in this adventure as a reader. Join 


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