I have been noticing something wonderful happening to people using the web much more frequently of late. It is that delightful moment of discovering things and ideas somehow bigger than one's own world view. A new book, film or music; an historical event quirkily related to one's topic of interest; medical knowledge to discuss with a licensed physician. Humans are naturally curious creatures; new discoveries excite us now as they always have - going west in the U.S. now leads us to Silicon Valley; one hub of pioneering spirit in a world which continues to provide her inhabitants with new wonders but manages to grow ever smaller thanks to our improving abilities to communicate.
It has been said that the industrial revolution disenchanted the world. Human kind lost touch with nature, with the magic that is being human and connected to the world and to other people directly. Machines and information services provided a level of indirection, of anonymity into the process. Reading a newspaper or watching televised news in one's own living room was a one-way channel. Opinions could be formed and actions taken that never attached to the bigger picture; they could be as local as the individual mind, the town hall, or as vocal as the greatest pundits of the physical information age and still have influence only one way.
The infrastructure of the internet, and the services and tools provided by the layer that is the web, have changed that game. "Web2.0" is a collective nickname for one of the original goals of the web, for anyone to be able to read and publish to this new digital information layer, and engage in meaningful dialog with others. During the first 20 years of the web we have seen the reactions of web users go from "wow - I can't believe they have this on here" to "why don't they have" or "why can't I find this" and now back to "Wow! They have that available in the web?!!" This last part, in my more frequently occurring set of experiences, is thanks to the advances in what many call the semantic web or semantic technologies - the ability to link data to other data, re-use, re-mix and query it.
New ideas and influences can be found. Some may be agreeable, some may not. All can help make us stronger thinkers, more diverse in our perspectives, and more culturally aware. Answers can be found in unexpected places, and more importantly, so can new questions that we need to consider. The degrees of separation are shrinking, giving the world a more tightly knit community. New opportunities for learning and mentoring are being created. Lessons learned - in the form of analytical data, expert reports, blogged opinions and finely crafted stories, are being shared.
Individuals and organizations of all kinds can participate. Deciding what and how is the challenge. Nurturing that participation in positive ways is my goal. Thank you for reading this inaugural post at the beginning of this new venture. I invite you to leave comments here, as we are stronger when we are engaged as a team, learning as much as (if not more than) we are teaching.