Kim H. Veltman

Promoting the Future of Online Culture

Panel: WWW10, Hong Kong, May 2001.


New media are introducing a host of new techniques and problems of method. We need to teach students about these problems if we are to prepare them properly for the future. The G8 can play an important role in this process by extending existing initiatives in North America (e.g. NINCH, Internet II, CANARIE) and Europe (European Research Area), to promote the emergence of a global research area. This would be a continuation of the G7's original vision of eleven pilot projects: specifically, 5 (multimedia access to world cultural heritage), 4 (libraries) and education).

1. New Media
2. New Problems of Method
3. High Bandwidth Networks for Research and Teaching

1. New Media

Rapid developments in technology are quickly changing our notions of what is possible with respect to the Internet. For instance, a new chip recently developed at Keele University holds 14,000 gigabytes/square inch. As a result one could include the full contents of the British Library on a credit card. Major developments are also underway with respect to nano-technology on at least four fronts, namely, electronic, biochemical or organic, mechanical and quantum. One estimate claims that: "1 gramme of dried DNA can hold as much information as 1 trillion CDs."

One consequence of these predictions is that we could literally hold in our hands the digital versions of the contents of many of the world's greatest museums, libraries and archives. A second consequence is that computers will disappear into everyday objects and the environment and lead to a new ambient intelligence. Within two decades every object of culture could have its own computer which helps to describe its own history. If the world is ubiquitously imbued by self-aware objects, simple oppositions between subject and object, which have characterized much of Western thought since the Renaissance, no longer apply. The subject-object distinction needs revision.

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