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Since before Christmas I have been considering a question, and persuading myself that it would be naïve to ask it. It’s an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ type question. But the recent discussions of the article by Vint Cerf in the New York Times coupled with the document I have just been reading ‘UNITED NATIONS
COMMISSION ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR DEVELOPMENT
Third Meeting of the Working Group on improvements to the Internet Governance
Forum (IGF) Geneva, Switzerland 31 October- 2 November 2011Chairman’s summary of the meeting (amended version on 7 December 2011’, which is available at , suggest that the question needs to be asked.
The discussion on the Cerf article made it clear that even when discussing things with one another we have serious semantic difficulties. In fact we seem to step into a Looking Glass world.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean --- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--- that's all."
Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
We, within the charmed circle, all take the great good of the Internet for granted. We seem to have left ‘what?’, ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ far behind us. We tunnel happily along under the ground and no one on the surface is listening, unless something to do with one of the tunnels collapses and a real person, looking into the real hole that has been created, realises that for example their real credit card has been used without their permission and there is a question of real funds that have gone really missing. We need to reconnect with the surface.
The Internet is supposed to break down ‘silos’, but those of us discussing the Internet have created a huge silo – and we’re inside it. We need to break out. We need to stop taking things for granted. If we want to be inclusive, if we want to encourage participation, then we need to be able to say why so that other people can understand clearly what we are talking about.
My question, my challenge if you like, is for the human benefits from the Internet to be described clearly, in accessible language, WITHOUT USING ACRONYMS AND JARGON. My personal preference would be to add a similarly accessible list of all the disadvantages as well to allow people to create their own informed opinions.