The first of four programmes in the BBC’s The Virtual Revolution was called the Great Leveller. It sounded promising but it wasn’t. The script was full of cliches such as empowering everyone and giving equal access to information while neatly sidestepping all the issues around barriers and inaccessible websites. It did get one thing right, when they said ‘the potential of the technology was to offer a paradigm shift on a par with the invention of the printing press’. It was a shame it didn’t go on to acknowledge those who have always been excluded from analogue text who will continue to be excluded from digital unless access technology gets cheaper and content produced inclusively.
The programme ended by suggesting that the original bottom-up democratic vision of the Internet was being undermined. Focusing on the domination of organisations such Google and Amazon, it claimed the web’s inherent inequality is a reflection the hierarchical nature and inequalities in the world. Well, at least that was one point you can’t argue with!