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The beginning from Pamela’s perspective – Start here if you prefer facts and analysis.

“Web We Want” and  25 years of change.

In 2014 and 2015 the “Web We Want Festival” took place on the South Bank. The promotional materials for May 2015 said:

Web We Want is an extensive celebration of how the web has changed our lives.

Join us for the third weekend of our Web We Want festival, exploring the past 25 years of the web and looking to the the future….

The festival is inspired by the work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. His World Wide Web Foundation responds to threats to the web and drives change at a national and global level.

I went to the Web We Want festival in 2014l, to hear Sir Tim Berners-Lee speak (and answer questions that people were tweeting to him). It got me thinking about what it meant to be celebrating 25 years of the web (which we now tend to take for granted) and how other related things that have been changing over that time..

It’s not easy to jump back in time to exactly 25 years ago, but it’s worth a try. The best I can do is remember that I got married around that time, which is a good marker. I can picture our flat and what we had there in the way of a phone, TV and computer. I can think forward to the first person who visited us and showed off his mobile phone. I can picture where we’d moved to by the time we were using the Internet, and how often my husband reminded me I could use it for phone numbers and addresses instead of looking in the big and bulky Yellow Pages.

I can remember modems and paying by the minute for Internet access There was a cheaper tariff for a selected few special “family and friends” (i.e. most used) phone numbers. People admitted to choosing their Internet connection number as one of their “family and friends” and were teased for it. Then came cable TV and Internet connections with monthly contracts. That meant we could use the Internet as much as we wanted. Then came flat screens, and laptops, and phones with cameras and things got small enough to carry around and then somehow, before we noticed exactly what was happening, everything connected up. Here we are now. Living in a connected world and increasingly at a loss if we’re denied Internet access.

2000 is a good year to think how things were, because so much was happening that is date stamped in our minds. It’s not too hard to run through the checklist of phone, TV, wristwatch, camera, computer and get some kind of a fix on them from fifteen years ago.

Another easy one is when you were at primary school (or when you were at secondary school). Imagine yourself back then. Fix your mind on the life you were living  and run through the checklist again –  phone, TV, wristwatch, camera, computer.

How much of your leisure time did you spend in front of a screen? What kind of screens? What were you doing? How has that changed?

What about arranging to meet people? Were you part of the era when people arranged to “meet under the clock at a certain place and a certain time” or were you texting each other and deciding after you left home? Did you connect with people in other countries without giving a second thought to how much it cost, or were you acutely aware of things like time and distance, and how long three minutes was, and where “local” phone calls ended and how that affected the costs?

What about holidays and booking them? Timetables, tickets, buying things ready to go away, paying for them?

Where is the Internet in all this? When did it come in? (Here I’m only thinking of what we can see, not all the extra stuff that goes on without us noticing.)

We all bring our own experience of these changes and we arrive where we are now, in 2015, living in an increasingly interconnected world.

The Reluctant Time Traveller – How to Survive and Thrive When the System Shifts is rooted in 2015. Its focal point is the Internet. It addresses issues that are related, in some way or another, to living our lives in this increasingly interconnected world.