Monday, April 14, 2008

Do you know what you are looking for?

Noam Chomsky in an interview ( Source: “What we say goes”) , while acknowledging the benefits of the Internet, points to this flip side :

Built into the Internet is a system for creating cults. So, for example, if I had a blog, which I don’t, and I put up something that is slightly novel and maybe questionable interpretation of some event- the Bush administration is trying to poison the water in Boston or something, to pick at random- tomorrow somebody else would say, “That’s right, but it’s worse than you think.”. And pretty soon you would develop a cult of people proving that the Bush administration is trying to poison the world’s water. It’s extremely easy to get caught up in this kind of cultlike behaviour, which has a cocoon-like property similar to other religious cults, immune to evidence, immune to

There is an element of truth in what he says, but will not the same apprehension be equally valid in the case of various devices- mobile phones, photo-copying machines and suchlike? They also have the potential to move and distort information at great speed.

So, what would Noam Chomsky suggest to someone surfing the Internet?

Surfing the Internet makes about as much sense as for, say, a biologist to read all the biology journals. You will never learn anything that way. No serious scientist does that .The literature is massive. You get flooded by it. A good scientist is one who knows what to look for, so you disregard tons of stuff and you see a little thing somewhere else. The same is true for a good newspaper reader. Whether it’s in print or on the Internet, you have to know what to look for. This requires knowledge of history, an understanding of the backgrounds, a conception of the way the media functions as filters and interpreters of the world. Then you know what to look for. And the same is true on the Internet.

What Chomsky misses out is that the knowledge of history and an understanding of the backgrounds can also be provided by the same Internet.

No comments: