Digital Versus Information: Why We Can’t Use The Internet


At the beginning of the 21st century, it gradually became clear that the Internet is much more than just a channel for disseminating information, much more than a new vehicle for old content. The comparison with the Autobahn has slowly died out. But the illusion from which it was born, the addiction to the word “informational” in business and not in business, turned out to be very tenacious, and in some places, unexpectedly manifests itself to this day. Why is the dictionary we actively use when describing the Internet terrible, and what problems are caused by outdated concepts, explains Andrey Sebrant, Director of Strategic Marketing at Yandex?

Transport Or Environment

At the dawn of the Internet (in the 80s and 90s of the last century), the metaphor information superhighway – “information superhighway” was often used to describe it. The press was one of the first victims of involuntary disinformation using beautiful metaphors (primarily about the superhighway). At the turn of the century, traditional media began to show their first, at first sluggish, interest in the Internet. At the same time, startup enthusiasts began to experiment with online journalism. For many traditional publishers, the Internet was a transport in the truest sense of the word.

I happened to be present in the 90s at a meeting in the town of Gütersloh in one of the largest media groups in the world, where venerable and very experienced participants agreed that it would be fitting to use the Internet to deliver a PDF version of a newspaper or magazine to those subscribers who dream of cutting-edge technology. 

The publication site should serve only as its information showcase: there you can subscribe (both online and offline), get acquainted with the best authors, read the history of the magazine – but by no means the magazine itself. The online version of the publications themselves was unanimously rejected.

Everyone agreed that the print edition is a complex work in which layout, typography, and clear to the reader breakdown into stripes, and the delicate work of a building editor are essential. All this is impossible to convey on the screen. And that is why the Internet cannot be considered in any other role than transport, for the delivery of a media product; Simultaneously with such meetings of great professionals in the media business, in less pretentious places, other people gathered, for whom it was enjoyable not to preserve all the traditional attributes of the press in the new environment, but to use the features of this environment that no old media could technically possess.

In the history of Runet, these processes are beautifully reflected: in 1996, Anton Nosik began to conduct an online review of websites, a genre that did not exist before. His “Evening Internet” became more popular than traditional media sites, and it is logical that in 1999 it was Anton became the editor of the first Russian daily online newspaper Gazeta.

Now we see how much the media space has changed over 20 years and how diverse the formats of using the Internet by traditional media are: this is far from being transport for offline content, but an environment in which its audience, its methods of interacting with it, unthinkable offline, its monetization.

It also has many new players taking the public’s attention away from the traditional media business. And, of course, online is not a channel for delivering Information, but an environment for communication and discussion. Those who did not come to their senses in time and did not stop clinging to the outdated description of the Internet were left out of work. 

Consciousness barriers

A few years later, the epithet “informational” played a cruel joke in a completely different area – in industry and a much broader context than the use of the Internet. The terms “informatization” and “information society” also gained significant popularity at the turn of our century. Connected practical aspects with the satisfaction of Information needs information support for making managerial decisions, simplifying access to Information and its search. Typical tasks of the IT department were formulated as the creation of an enterprise information environment.

A few years ago, active discussions began on the convergence of two technological systems in an increasing number of enterprises – Information and operational. The development of initially purely information technologies in the field of machine learning and the Internet of Things has led to the fact that algorithms have become able not only to support the adoption and execution of operational decisions by people but also to take on a lot in the operating system, including that which does not lend itself well to traditional automation .

Based on the experience of many conversations and observing the presentations of the largest suppliers of digital solutions, I can say that one of the most significant obstacles to this convergence is the barrier in the heads of managers: “Information is one thing, but real life and production are entirely different, and the lot of IT is to work with the first, not the second. “

Right now, we are witnessing another central sphere of human activity. The same processes are beginning to unfold as 20 years ago in the media and around industrial automation – five years ago. This area is education. Technologies also came there, EdTech began to arouse a keen interest of investors, the states concerned themselves with the regulation of technologies in education.

As once in the media world, a part of the pedagogical community sees only transport in digital technologies – hence the dreams of digitizing paper textbooks or video versions of traditional lecture courses that have flooded the Internet. But at the same time, numerous startups and educational products of large companies are emerging, which are originally designed to operate in a digital or hybrid environment.

These products are not analogous to anything that existed in traditional education. A striking example is Project 42, created by professors of the best French universities (in Russia, it is developing under the Shkola 21 brand). The main idea of ​​its creators is that a first-class education in the field of programming is possible without lectures, without teachers, without exams and other attributes of a regular university.

Most of the difficulties on the path of development (and most importantly, mass adoption) of educational technologies look painfully familiar: the unwillingness or unwillingness of those employed in education to see in digital technologies a new side of the world in which we already live and in which students will have to live and work, and not denial and not a substitute for typical and essential values.

The words “informational” or “online” quite understandably scare these people away: a good education is not limited to the transmission of Information. Online is frightening by the lack of live human contact, the basis of education. Once again, we see how the unfortunate juggling of fashionable terms distorts the meaning of modern technology.

Of course, the transition to the word “digital” improves the perception of technology. Although, as before, we are told from all sides about the lack of IT specialists and the prospects of IT careers, here the term “informational”, alas, does not give up its positions.

The problem of harmful associations and the psychological barriers they generate remains. That is why the metaverse concept is so dear to me as a superposition of the digital and material sides of our world: there is no antagonism between these sides; they complement and enrich each other. It seems that this is the proper basis for developing new products in any areas of our activity and for talking about the future and for educating those who will live in this future and build it further. The opinion of the editorial board may not coincide with the point of view of the author.

Also Read: Digital Marketing: What It Is And Why It Is So Important

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