The Online World

Through the Looking Glass

144 years ago Lewis Carroll has written ‘Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There’  (1871), a novel written after he had written ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. In this book Alice enters a fantastical world by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. Source of this new world is Lewis Carrol’s imagination and fantasy which he created next to reality.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass

When I see someone who is focused om his Smart Phone or Tablet and not paying attention to the poeple around I always imagen he or she is also looking through a looking glass, just like Alice. The last decade we have created a new world next to the real ‘Physical world’ and ‘Fantasy World’ which can is called the ‘Online world’ and which is always available when you have access to a device with Internet connection. And, when going ‘Online’, you can influence your ‘User Experience’ and create your own environment and manage your content. You can, for example, only invite the friends you like on your Facebook or WhatsApp account or filter the information you like on your screen creating your own virtual world! This world also enables you to watch movies, play games and listen to music on your own and forget the world around you, its your unique and individual experience. That’s why a lot of people like this new ‘ ‘Online World’: you can escape from the ‘Real World’!children-mediaWhen 144 years ago in Lewis Carroll’s time, someone from outer space would have visited earth  he would see that people only could communicate directly with a small number of people around them. If he would come back today in our world he would see everyone on earth communicating through internet devices enabling them to broaden the scope of people they can communicate to all people with internet devices worldwide. In Lewis Carrol’s time information was mainly stored on paper and available in libraries, archives and bookshops and not available for all, nowadays it’s no problem to get information from far away locations when one has access with their devices through information technology using ‘The Internet’….


Students now studying on schools and universities are the first generation students who have grown up with constant access to the Internet. It’s not possible to explaining ICT to them without taking into account their ‘Online world’ perspective. And the funny thing is that most teachers are grown up without ICT and learned to use it at a later age, I myself learned working with computers when I was 30 and got online when I was 40. So, the ‘old school’ generation is now teaching the ‘Online’ generation what ICT is!

If you search for definitions on the Internet most definitions of ICT are made by people with an ICT background. For exemple the manual ‘An introduction To Information Systems’ from David Whiteley from the Liverpool Business School uses the following definitions:

  • ICT: The combination of computing and communications (network) technologies.
  • Information System (IS): A business application of a computer.
  • Information Technology (IT): Computing equipment (hardware).

All three definitions have one thing in common: key is the computer and communications between computers. When I use these definitions explaining ICT in the classroom the students look at me, than their phone, tablet or laptop and don’t have a clue what I’m saying. Why explaning ICT in technical terms while for them it’s all about their online user experience?imageFor this reason I looked at the way children explain the internet and found these quotes:

  1. The internet is like a telephone for all the computers in the world, so that they can all talk to each other.
  2. The Internet is where all the computers connect to each other so you can check email, send files, and play games that are hosted on other computers.
  3. The internet is a place to play games, do your homework, talk to friends and watch movies, all without leaving your chair.
  4. Not long ago, all this was on paper. To send somebody a note you wrote it on paper and paid a guy to carry it the whole way. Then we build paperless machines called computers.   We only called them that because they were first used to do math. Then we connected them all together, and called that the Internet. No more paper.

Students nowadays don’t know how the none-connected world without Internet looked like 20 years ago. You can compare it with freedom, it doesn’t mean anything to those who have it, once taken away you know what it is. Of course they have experienced what it is to have no Internet connectivity, for most students this is a threath, not an opportunity.imageWe need to find a new way of defining ICT more in line with the way this new ‘Online’ generation experience. For this reason I would suggest not to use the term ICT anymore as a starting point but rather talk about the ‘Online World’ made possible by the Internet, when you start talking about the ‘Online World’ students know exactly what you mean and you get their attention. The ‘Online World’ is bigger than devices and cables and bigger than data and information: it creates a new ‘Online World’ for all and this influences the way we communicate and experience the ‘Real world’ around us. It also gives the opportunity to talk about the social, cultural and economic impact of the internet which will become more and more important in the future.

The Online Communication Cycle

About Gerard Geerlings

Gerard Geerlings, socioloog en schrijver, schrijft online over wat er zoal aan de hand is op het terrein van de digitale samenleving, de troost van kunst, praktische levenskunst en de actuele politiek.
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