The Internet Has No Opinions

New York Magazine has a quick little article up about online fans’ divided reactions to the just-leaked Ryan Adams record. It’s a short piece with a 3 part set up that goes like this:

The Internet loves it! (excerpt of a positive blog review follows)

The Internet hates it! (excerpt of a negative blog review follows)

We think: (their own minireview follows)

Maybe tongue is in cheek, but if they could hear us talk about music over the phone would they write “The Telephone loves it!” ?

Would they write “The Television loves it!” ?

How about “the Telephone loves it, but the Television hates it!” ?

It’s this kind of acting as though the internet* were a unified creature capable of intentionality that leads to goofy irrational claims that lead to goofy irrational policies. Wikipedia? The Internet can’t be trusted, so we must ban it from education! MySpace? The Internet is dangerous so we must never let our children use it! Our Teaching Assistants pull their hair out when students in public speaking say things like “According to the Internet…”

And, word to the writers at New York magazine — YOU’RE “THE INTERNET” TOO!

* I prefer lower case “i” — and if you wonder why, just look at how strange capitalization looks on the words “Telephone” and “Television” in the sentences above.

Comments (6) to “The Internet Has No Opinions”

  1. The Smoke Signals love it!

  2. …but the Postcard is ambivalent. But then, you know how wishy-washy the Postcard is.

  3. I think the primary reason the “Internet” gets capitalized is because people think of it as a place, and therefore deserving of a proper name like a city. (That, and Firefox insists on capitalization.) And if people treat the internet as a unified whole, it probably indicates the same fears and hopes that have given rise to so many instances of the ‘net “giving birth” to a sentient consciousness in SF.

  4. When I was doing copy-editing, I was instructed that the Internet is considered a specific locale, hence the capitalization. Maybe now that the Internet can also be considered its own thinking/feeling entity, it deserves caps even more. You wouldn’t want to hurt It’s feelings, would you?

  5. I think the place metaphor has indeed shaped the sense that it should be capitalized. But if we think about it concretely instead of metaphorically, the internet is no more a place than the phone is. A web “site” is no more a site in a physical sense than a TV channel is. I fight copy editors about this all the time because I think it’s the job of those of us who study the internet to disabuse people of the notion that the internet is more like Chicago or London than it is like the telephone or the television.

  6. I approach the capitalization of “Internet” thus: yes, the Internet is considered a realm, a locale, and a very unique one at that, and this warrants the initial capital letter to many people; but more than that, the Internet has no physical reality, and that is the key to its properness.

    Nancy, you say that “the internet is no more of a place than the phone is.” You’re right, but it’s actually less of a place, because the Internet is not an appliance. We don’t handle “computer” as a proper noun, either, because there are scads of them. There are also scads of telephones. Only one Internet, though. (OK, Internet2, but let’s not go there!)