Connectivity: friend or foe?

On: September 8, 2014
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About Kyrsha Verweij


According to a news item, Facebook is willing to spend billions on connecting the world to the internet. This might come as a surprise since Facebook isn’t an internetprovider but a social media platform, but will be one of Facebook tactical moves to secure it’s ‘it’ position in the future. According to Zuckberg, Facebooks co-founder, “What we really care about, is to connect all over the world…Even if it means that Facebook needs to spend billions of dollars over the next ten years to make this possible, I believe that in the long term will be for us and the world well”.

Connectivity. While the internet is getting more and more positioned as an essential tool in modern life nowadays, the demand for connectivity increases automatically. Connectivity can be seen as a parameter for spreading news; in areas where connectivity is dense, scandals like the leaked nude pictures of several celebrities spread unseemingly fast, whilst censorship can delay elections and stimulates ignorance of citizens living in North Korea according to Amnesty International. Connectivity is the key that can open or close doors to get acces to information, anytime and anywhere.

Comparable to the voyages of discovery in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to Indonesia, India, America and so on where unknown land got discovered and mapped, all unconnected digital land in the twenty-first century gradually gets mapped and marked. By this, one can say that the one that offers connection and thereby functions as the key to the world has the power, and can claim digital territory of physical land. For instance, Google’s Loon project enhances connectivity in poorly accessible land and third world countries by offering their services organized in one network. Off course, all with best intentions, but also including terms of services entitling Google to look shamelessly into their users data. And since Google for the time being is the only one with connectivity in such areas, which is probably chosen by Google for a reason, it is only logical that the user agrees to get connected without grumbling.

Another phenomenon situated in Amsterdam is Social Wifi. By offering connectivity as a service, restaurants and bars automatically get all the log-ins from their guests, and get their Facebook like straight away by this. So for both parties, get people connected and get connected is a win. What can be said from previous examples is that connectivity keys from a historical, economical and social perspective, will act or already are acting in a certain role and level of importance as stakeholders. By this, Bacons statement “Scienta potentie est”, knowledge is power, can nowadays be understood as “connectivity is power”. The desire of expansion will be fought out via tactical moves like the wish and implementation of connecting the world as Facebook, initiating the Loon project and offering “service” via Social Wifi.

This phenomenons are reminiscent of Gillespie’s platform theorie(Gillespie 2010). “Cross-platforms”, for instance Facebook, Google and Social Wifi, include a high integration with other platforms as an intermediair who stimulates usage. They are eager to be seen as an instrument, sleeping giants who in this matter love to be in charge of connectivity strings.

Dear reader, by writing his blog, I just want to point out the following. How much is connectivity worth for you? Which role is assigned to connectivity in your view, and what’s your view of the future? Knowing that the battle of expansion regarding connectivity is taking place in the present tense, I would like to undo the dazzling paint of platforms to colonize digital land. Platforms like Google are competing for a bigger slice of digital pie, which will effect the physical world. And wouldn’t it be nice, maybe even our duty, to take lessons of our past by not-colonize and create new third world countries as a result? Think about that, the next time someone is connecting you.

Gillespie, Tarleton. “The politics of platforms”. New media and society. 12(2010). Gillespie, Tarleton. “The relevance of algorithms”. Cambridge: MIT press, 2013.

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