Corporate control of information.

I’m surprised to not see more people taking advantage of the public wi-fi at the library. Are we so used to having at home that we don’t mind paying large corporations unnecessarily large fees for it? Yet the connection to the Internet is what should be liberating the general public from corporate control. Yes, I know, I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to viewing what I want to at home through Comcast, despite that NBC peacock logo over their name now. I haven’t had any problems with getting alternative information or spouting off my liberal views through this blog. I was half expecting it, but nothing happened.

Still, they charge way to much for what you’re getting. On top of that, to get any real content half the time you have to pay yet again. It’s only a matter of time that podcasts will no longer be free. I’m all for the freedom of information. I’m also for copyright control and paying to view content in a certain way. That is, the information contained in a book may be free but the author wrote it in his or her way, with his or her opinions, and making specific conclusions based on that information and set of opinions. I’m fine with paying for that. But the information that the author in question gathered should be available freely on publicly available databases.

It used to be that television was free. Yet to be able to watch that television we had to sit through commercials, with the expectations that we would buy some of the products advertised during our favorite programs. Even if I didn’t buy any of the products advertised, even if I made a point not to, I was still at the mercy of what those sponsors would allow themselves to be tied to. The corporations controlled this “free” content. PBS was a bit better. At least the viewers controlled what program they pledged during. Still, the options were limited, and the government has constantly been trying to shut PBS down. They haven’t figured out how to make much money off of it yet.

With the advent of the Internet all of this information came to light. Not only are we free to view this information, we are free to chose what information we view. The freedom of choice can be dangerous in of itself. People tend to only view news that reflects their worldview. We get stuck in viewing the same sites over and over again. Advertisers have gotten better at tracking us, and recommending links based on our interests. The freedom of viewing information is powerful, but the best way to exercise that power is through diversity of viewing.

Of course, one can always choose to not bother with the Internet altogether. I’ve greatly reduced my time online over the last few weeks, and I do feel much better for it. I take in information rather quickly, though, so I may not be the best example. With podcasts I’m at the mercy of how long each episode is. With text I can breeze through a lot; I read very quickly. In fact, I used to speed read, although I’ve let that skill (if I even possessed it) decline over the years.

The fact remains that if one wants to disconnect from the outside world, how much are we losing? If you have a hard time sifting through all of the crap out there, maybe it’s best that you don’t bother. You can gain intellect through other means, such as books. The Internet sped up the rate of information and made quite a lot more available, but one needs to be able to discern what is news, what is propaganda, and what is being spoon-fed by corporate sponsors.

By the way, I don’t want you to think that I’m anti-corporation on principle. There are several larger companies that are better than others, and in theory they aren’t what’s going to cause the end of the world. But at the same time we need to let them know who’s boss. The masses not only give them the money for what they want. They also outnumber the corporate bosses, should things get nasty.

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