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This has nothing whatsoever to do with information and communication technology – or has it?
Some 400 years ago and 4000 miles away, a man, living in London, listened to a bell and used the bell notes as an image in a piece of writing. He had been very ill and would soon die. His name was John Donne. You can read his whole meditation here but this is the most famous part:
“No man is an island, intire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Just the other day there was a report on the news about something that happened in Bethlehem. For me, it wasn't something that was happening in a foreign country 6000 miles away that I had never visited, it was something that was potentially happening to someone I know. The “someone I know” is someone I met briefly at the IGF in Sharm el Sheikh three years ago with whom I keep in touch by email. Similarly, the “someone” who makes flooding and explosions in Pakistan touch me is a friend of four years who I have never met. These “someones” who make the joys and sorrows of their countries relevant to me are scattered all over the world at the ends of virtual threads of email.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about benefits. The Internet is “a good thing” - these days this seems to be our common act of faith. No requirement to explain how or why. The Emperor's tailors describe his beautiful suit for us and we see it, of course we see it, because we too are intelligent and fit for our jobs. If you don't know that story you can read it here
I would propose however a transcendant how and why for the Internet.. The Internet allows us all to become “involved in mankind”. It is only a tool. It facilitates the making of the connections. We have to do the actual work ourselves. But just imagine if we did. Just imagine if every time everywhere in the world a disaster struck we felt it as if it had touched us too. Bells mark joyful occasions as well. Just imagine if every time there was a celebration somewhere it became our celebration also.
Just imagine ...