Internet · Technology

Providing the Road Signs


Imagine that the government has just spent millions of dollars constructing a superhighway that linked together all of the communities throughout the province.  The road is sleek and smooth and enables a regular and consistent flow of goods and services as well as commerce.  As a citizen, you jump on this highway and start cruising down the road; enjoying the speed and quality of the road and the scenery you’re taking in along the way.  As you drive a little further down the highway, something strikes you; you’ve passed a few dozen exits now and not one of them had a sign letting you know what was at the end of exit.  In fact, you realize that there are no road signs on this new highway, whatsoever.  No signs pointing you to local attractions, or restaurants, or gas stations.  No signs to let you know if there is construction ahead and you should reduce speed.  No signs to even let you know what the speed limit is.  For all of the benefits of this nice new super highway, there were no guideposts (or signs) to help you navigate it.


Granted, some people enjoy Sunday driving; they enjoy randomly meandering down long and winding roads to simply explore the local landscape.  But for the people who need assistance in getting where they want to go, a lack of signs can be extremely problematic.  In reality the government would never dream of building a highway without installing the appropriate signs and numbers to help the driver navigate it.  Those things are all part in parcel of a highway system.  However, when it comes to the Information Highway, there seems to be an assumption that signage is not part of the package.  Laying the asphalt (or in this case fiber-optic cables) is good enough and the end of the responsibility.  Never mind the signs and navigation assistance, the driver is expected to know where it is he or she wants to go and how to get there.


However with the vast and seemingly endless network of “roads” that is the Internet, it can be easy to take a wrong turn and end up in the “bad part of town;” it can be easy to end up searching for restaurants and accommodations for London, UK when your really trying to do that for London, Ontario; it can be easy to be sidetracked by unsubstantiated urban myths because you were seeking information about the city sewer system.  It can be dangerous and the cause of many accidents when we are allowed to chaotically and randomly speed up and down the highways without any signs along the way to guide us, especially when not all the drivers are licensed.


2 thoughts on “Providing the Road Signs

  1. interesting. I think the lack of road signs is a GOOD thing. What has happened on the information superhighway is that people have organically put up signs telling each other where to go – look at that great blogroll and list of links to the right!

    Info on the web gets organized in clusters and tendrils – I actually don’t think of a network of linear superhighways as much as I think of a sky filled with clouds of info in layers and wisps.

    Do you remember the novel Neuromancer, by William Gibson? His vision of cyberspace, long before it actually existed! is pretty compelling – 3D structures of data in space.

    very good-looking blog, BTW! I gotta get my links in order, now. . . .

  2. This little rant comes from a panel discussion I participated in about the NS Government spending millions of dollars installing a Broadband infrastructure and then handing it over to Aliant (which is our provincial telecom owned by Bell Globe Media)

    The position of the government is that they aren’t in the business of becoming a service provider… which is understandable… but in that they are sort of washing their hands of the responsibilty that might go along with providing such an infrastructure.

    The rhetoric says that in our society (Western) broadband is a necessary infrastructure (like the roads) but they never say necessary for what… if it is supposed to be about community development (which is the rationale they give for spending the big bucks on it) then I think that they should have a hand in helping it be about community development… and not just allow corporate interest to interfere.

    But I suppose this is all under a basic assumption that the government is supposed to being devoting time and energy in improving the quality of life for its citizens… rather than for corporate interest.

    I am ASHAMED to say I have not read Neuromancer yet… but it’s only because I haven’t been able to find a second hand copy in a few years… but tomorrow I think I’ll take another little poke around JWD to see if they have a copy.

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