The Holistic Web
Posted on 03 March 2010
Another article in my “Historical Perspective” series, this one is from my days working in the PR industry and dates from March 3rd, 2004.
Recently I’ve been working on a number of ideas for increasing traffic and popularity for a couple Web sites. Someday, I may finalize these and put them into an easily digestible (and more coherent) format for posting to the Web. For the most part, these ideas are nothing new and I’m just collecting and combining thoughts of others to unify things. One thing that’s happened to me recently is a shift in my outlook on the Internet and all things Web: I’ve started to take a more holistic view of the Web, especially in terms of how other forms of media, advertising, and PR affect and shape what can and cannot be done with the Web. For the most part, I think there are a lot of people (especially in the PR industry) who are starting to “get it” but, like those who believe that a press release is a major reason for visitors to come to a site or those who still believe in the “build it and they will come” philosophy of the Internet, the sound of silence can be rather deafening at times when trying to explain reality to the uninformed.
Granted, some of the individuals that I’m speaking with are not the most adept Internet users, let alone people who can think outside the box unless they have instructions, but how hard is it to see that our lives are intrinsically united with all forms of media. We aren’t just television viewers or Web surfers or music listeners, rather ever form of sensory input affects and shapes our lives, opinions, and thoughts to form a unified picture of the world around us. For example, if we didn’t see or watch any of the television media coverage of the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident, chances are we learned about it (and couldn’t escape it) online or we heard co-workers discussing it around the watercooler.
Any way you cut it though, the Internet is a part of our life that can be more integral to some while being almost inconsequential to others. Still, even if you barely touch a computer, that does not mean there isn’t a plethora of information and data stored all over the Internet about you. Look at Paris Hilton — I highly doubt that she even knows what a QWERTY keyboard is (can she even read? It’s hard to see her stepping away from the mirror long enough to) but run her name through Google and see what comes up. We aren’t unique individuals and companies can no longer believe that their official Web sites and statements are separate from the world around them. Activists have figured out that they can use certain tactics to have their information appear first in search results which may start to skew public opinion in favor of their views. In the case of Scientology, Scientologists took the approach of suing search engines for displaying dissenting opinions and, by attacking their opponents, has (pretty much) effectively throttled all opposition online.
Now I’m not advocating following in Scientology’s footsteps but I am saying that we need to realize our lives are caught up in the Web. With the ever increasing amount of information available to Web users it is becoming harder and harder for the individual to remain anonymous while, at the same time, providing for more transparency when it comes to discovering the “truth”. Granted, there is plenty of disinformation on the ‘Net when it comes to conspiracy theories, PR ploys, and opposing viewpoints, but our task is to look at the Internet as a part of our life and not an outside force. Despite the abundance of “bad content” present in every form of the media, if we stop and listen (or read) long enough to let an idea sink in, our perceptions of the world are affected. Thinking that one piece of a person’s environment has more or less impact than another is a bit pretentious — we just need to figure out the degree to which each medium affects each group and target the message accordingly.