Friday, 30 December 2016

The Dark Net - Jamie Bartlett

Title: The Dark Net
Author: Jamie Bartlett
ISBN: 978-1-61219-521-6
Publisher: Melville House
Year: 2014
Pages: 306
Photos/ Maps: 0

One of the most profound initiators of change and social influence for the last two generation has been by far the internet and the reach and access that it provides to society at all levels. More than just a repository of information, it also serves as a platform for anyone, regardless of education, economic stature or social background, to promote their vision of the world and to act as architects of their own brand of change.

Bartlett’s book discusses what he identifies as the Dark Net; “internet underworlds set apart yet connected….worlds of freedom and anonymity, where users say and do what they like, often uncensored, unregulated and outside of society’s norms”. The key here is that it looks at the impact that anonymity has on the behaviours of people. In a world where less and less personal information is perceived to be private, the dark net provides an environment where society’s standards and rules may be cast aside.

Why is this significant? Bartlett’s work at first blush appears to be a rather superficial discussion of the concerns raised periodically by media and governments about the challenges posed by an unregulated body; however, as one moves forward in the book, it is clear that Bartlett’s analysis is both insightful and challenging to conventional thinking. He highlights not just practical questions surrounding issues of Net management and accessibility but also delves into areas with much broader implications; touching upon the fundamentals of our societies and perceptions.

This book is not an esoteric treatise on philosophy, rather a practical and tangible discussion on real world issues being played out online. Questions relating to the use of bitcoin on national economies, amateur pornography as practical revenue generation, sales and marketing of drugs and other items, privacy and government oversight are all discussed using interviews with real world people. Additionally, the ongoing passionate debates between those who feel that technology and the web represent the gateway to the ultimate evolution of man (so called transhumanists) or its downfall (anarcho-primitivists) are presented. Finally, the role that the web plays in facilitating “self-help” in controversial areas such as medicine, suicide, self-mutilation and anorexia is discussed.

The strength of this book lies in its non-judgement of the web, its explanation of the terms and concepts of this aspect of the Net, its balanced presentation of arguments for and against each of its areas of research and finally the questions that it leaves the readers to contemplate. It is for the reader to consider where he or she falls in terms of opinion. This is an excellent introduction and discussion of the challenges and potential existing online. Further, whether one likes it or not, it is the future and what generations of people are being influenced by. In order to better appreciate those things that drive modern decision making and activities, it is critical to understand the motivations and influences accessible to all ages and backgrounds. Not just parents, but leaders in all fields would do well to take the time to acquaint themselves with this world.

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