The web we have to save

Hossein Derakhshan went to jail in Iran because he dared publish. Now he says we are giving away the web and that we have to save it.

Just one passionate segment from his moving longform story:

But hyperlinks arenโ€™t just the skeleton of the web: They are its eyes, a path to its soul. And a blind webpage, one without hyperlinks, canโ€™t look or gaze at another webpageโ€Šโ€”โ€Šand this has serious consequences for the dynamics of power on the web.

More or less, all theorists have thought of gaze in relation to power, and mostly in a negative sense: the gazer strips the gazed and turns her into a powerless object, devoid of intelligence or agency. But in the world of webpages, gaze functions differently: It is more empowering. When a powerful websiteโ€Šโ€”โ€Šsay Google or Facebookโ€Šโ€”โ€Šgazes at, or links to, another webpage, it doesnโ€™t just connect itโ€Šโ€”โ€Šit brings it into existence; gives it life. Metaphorically, without this empowering gaze, your web page doesnโ€™t breathe. No matter how many links you have placed in a webpage, unless somebody is looking at it, it is actually both dead and blind; and therefore incapable of transferring power to any outside web page.

On the other hand, the most powerful web pages are those that have many eyes upon them. Just like celebrities who draw a kind of power from the millions of human eyes gazing at them any given time, web pages can capture and distribute their power through hyperlinks.

But apps like Instagram are blindโ€Šโ€”โ€Šor almost blind. Their gaze goes nowhere except inwards, reluctant to transfer any of their vast powers to others, leading them into quiet deaths. The consequence is that web pages outside social media are dying.

According to Hossein, the, “scariest outcome of the centralization of information in the age of social networks is something else: It is making us all much less powerful in relation to governments and corporations.”

Read his entire story on Matter, a Medium publication.

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