28 Jan 2010

The Virtual Revolution - 20 years of the world wide web

Aleks Krotoski, The Virtual Revolution

Aleks Krotoski, The Virtual Revolution

20 years on from the invention of the world wide web, this major new BBC Two series, produced in partnership with The Open University, takes stock of its profound impact - how, for better and for worse, the digital revolution is reshaping all our lives.
Over four themed episodes that criss-cross the globe, journalist and academic Dr

Aleks Krotoski explores the meaning of a phenomenon that is transforming everything from how we learn to how we shop, vote and make friends. The series reveals astonishing facts about how the web is rewiring our society, our economy and - drawing on a unique experiment conducted specifically for the series - maybe even our brains.

For the first time on British TV, the series brings together everyone who's anyone on the web - from its inventor Tim Berners-Lee to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; from Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales to Amazon's Jeff Bezos; from web pioneers like Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to digital media barons like Arianna Huffington and Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Aleks tackles online colossuses Al Gore and Bill Gates as well as British web luminaries Martha Lane Fox and Stephen Fry. A host of bloggers and commentators help her examine how the web has changed our world including noted online evangelists like Chris Anderson and Clay Shirky and trenchant critics Andrew Keen and Lee Siegel.

Leslie Budd, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University Business School said: “Virtual Revolution, the new four part series co-produced by the BBC and the Open University, represents another landmark in public broadcasting and public education. Twenty years after the invention of the World-Wide Web, the world appears to be a more technogically and socially connected.

“This path-breaking series explores the paradoxes of the connectedness and disconnectedness of the interaction of technology and society, through interviews with key players in the wired world. Each programme develops a critical and compelling narrative on the changing nature of the state and politics; new business models; the growing ubiquity of social network sites, among others. The real achievement of the series is to remind us that rapid access to universal information does not of itself provide all of us with the knowledge of distinguishing liberation and repression: a constant of the human condition."

Dr David Chapman, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology said: “We aim to empower people by aiding their understanding of technology, which is particularly important in the age of the internet. Technology is never neutral; it is always influenced by the people and societies in which it develops, and it can change those people and societies. The Virtual Revolution challenges us to think about what it is we’ve made, what it can do, what it is doing to us and the world we live in.”

Yet the series is more than just a celebration. Through stories of how the web is being used and abused today, Aleks Krotoski uncovers the hidden costs of the web's culture of global, instant and free information. With what's claimed to be as much as £120 billion worth of files being downloaded illegally by Britons each year, Aleks explores how the web is undermining the business model of the entire information economy.

With only a quarter of the planet yet connected, Aleks asks what lies ahead as the remaining 75% of the world's population comes online. She is fascinated by the paradoxes of the technology they'll soon be adopting: "The web has created unimaginable wealth yet encouraged millions to work for nothing, its spread democracy and challenged authority yet allowed regimes to spy and censor as never before, and it's been blamed for creating a generation of web addicts yet opened up new realms of knowledge."

Open2.net also has further content to support the series with exclusive interviews by programme contributors and interviews with OU academic team members.
Visit www.Open2.net/virtualrevolution

Each of the four programmes is the result of a groundbreaking production process that invited web users to help shape the series by logging on to www.bbc.co.uk/digitalrevolution.

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