Thursday, June 21, 2012

Web 2ology

Web 2.0 prophet Cory Doctorow has been awarded an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University. He writes
Networks -- by which I mean the Internet, which is like some ancient god with a thousand faces and guises, but which is actually a single, sprawling network that appears to different people and societies in different garb -- are the most significant means of changing our social circumstances. The UK Champion for Digital Inclusion, Martha Lane Fox, commissioned a PriceWaterhouseCooper study on the impact of Internet access on the poorest and most vulnerable families in the UK. The study concluded that families with network access have better outcomes on every social axis, from nutrition to employment, from education and social mobility to civil engagement and political awareness. Simply put, the Internet is a single wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and access to nutrition, education, employment, politics, and community.
This may be tongue in cheek or some kind of joke, but I suspect not. He is serious. I'm sure there is a correlation between quality of housing and income and access to the Internet. But he seems to be saying that the one is the cause of the other. See fallacy of false cause.

It's time we sceptics added another item to our list of 'ologies'. We already have scientology, astrology, reflexology, cosmobiology. What is the 'ology' for the belief in and the study of weird magical properties of the internet?

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4 Comments:

Blogger Anthony said...

>> I'm sure there is a correlation between quality of housing and income and access to the Internet. But he seems to be saying that the one is the cause of the other.

Oh good. I'm glad you said it, because that was my first thought as I was reading that quote.

On the other hand, I guess it's possible the study was designed so that they studied a bunch of poor families, and randomly selected half of them to provide with Internet access, and Doctor Doctorow just didn't mention that detail.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> On the other hand, I guess it's possible the study was designed so that they studied a bunch of poor families, and randomly selected half of them to provide with Internet access, and Doctor Doctorow just didn't mention that detail.

Well, I just scanned the report on the study (www.parliamentandinternet.org.uk/uploads/Final_report.pdf), and nope, they didn't. In fact, they didn't do any primary research at all.

7:11 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

"PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) was commissioned by the Champion
for Digital Inclusion to prepare a report that assesses the potential scale of the ‘digital dividend’ to the UK of achieving greater digital inclusion."
---
"Our approach has been shaped by the intended purpose of the analysis and the limited time available for its completion. These have meant that our work has been largely based on collating and
synthesising existing evidence from a wide range of sources within a coherent economic framework."
---
"Given the intended audience of policy makers, we have sought to make our approach as robust as it
can be within the constraints we have faced. In practice, this has meant that the methods we have
used to estimate the economic impacts are as consistent with the requirements of HM Treasury’s
‘Green Book’ as they can be given the other constraints of our work. Thus, we have focused on
identifying all the potential benefits and costs: we have sought to exclude those impacts where one
stakeholder’s benefits are another’s costs (and, thus, the national effect is neutral)."

7:18 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

I like your 'ology. Just discovered your blog and loving it. So few bloggers seem to question all of these odd beleifs about how 'disruption' automatically results in a better outcome.

A few of my friends and I are doing a voluntary project questioning whether all of this will have a positive impact upon democracy - here - have a look if you get a moment? http://politicalinnovation.org

1:17 pm  

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