Thursday, 8 March 2018

Good Fences

“Segregation”. A word possessed of a complicated history about which many have very strong, usually rather negative feelings. Which only stands to reason, given its associations in the minds of many with both racially and gender-based discrimination. In terms of functional meaning, however, “segregation” means little more than an established separation, be it it physical, such as in The Republic of South Africa until the mid-1990s or metaphorical/legal. 

It can be difficult for many to imagine, or even recall, now but in the very early days of the Internet things were somewhat limited, as well as extremely organized and for the most part, separate. There was competition to be sure, but this was most,y between providers for subscribers and innovators to be the first to bring about the promised future. In terms of the sites themselves, things tended to remain essentially ‘on message’, to use the modern parlance. There were sites for nearly every interest under the sun, each kept separate from the other, both in terms of servers and understood use of the platform. A call-back to the origins of the World Wide Web as a closed system of communications for academic institutions before it went public. A pattern which would be echoed nearly twenty years later by the inception of social media popularizer ‘Facebook’ at Harvard University, initial membership being limited to those with a Harvard student number. 

All was quiet and fairly peaceful on the digital front, until the Year of Her Majesty 2005 when a little-known, up-start ‘streaming’ site known as ‘YouTube’ disrupted the established order steering digital culture towards is current state of hullabloo. Born during the beginnings of ‘net democratization’, the platform did away not only with the ‘gatekeepers’ of olde but also the wisdom that held that there are some ideas that ought not share space. The popularity of the platform invariably begat other similar boundary breaking sites, becoming increasingly contentious with each iteration, the ‘photo-sharing’ site ‘Tumblr’ being one of the most egregious cases, spurring  what became a trend of arguments ‘online’ inspiring or at least influencing conflict, arguments and acts of physical violence, including man-slaughter, in the non-digital realm. Otherwise known as ‘reality’. 

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