I gave a lecture for the Oxford Internet Institute‘s Undergraduate series on Monday and, with a whopping hour and a half to fill, I talked (and waved my arms around) about whether the Information Revolution that we are currently experiencing because of the social changes brought about by the World-Wide Web is hype or reality. As the target audience was undergraduates (but several post-grads and members of the public turned up too), I took a contrary approach by looking for the uniqueness that the Web offers in the context of two information innovations that have come before: the printing press and the telegraph. Here’s the abstract:

The information network created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 to connect people to knowledge has become an important place to navigate who and what we know, as well as who we think we are. But how much of a revolution is it? This lecture will trace some of the most important developments in social uses of information technologies in order to ultimately argue that the Web does offer unprecedented opportunities to access information and galvanise communities of practice, but that the impact of this new medium will reflect an evolution rather than a revolution of communication practices.

Many of the quotes in the presentation are from either interviews with contributors to Virtual Revolution (Tim Berners-Lee, Stewart Brand, Sherry Turkle), from interviews I’ve done for The Observer for a forthcoming feature on social change (moot from 4chan, Peter Sunde from The Pirate Bay & Flattr, Jody McIntyre from Life on Wheels) or from other fantastic published resources that are (mostly) available online. For those in the last category, do check the references slide at the end of the presentation.

Here is the deck: