[OUTLOOK]Intellectuals must enrich Net cultureRecently a web log by Gary Becker and Richard Posner was introduced to Korea by Ahn Min-ho, a communications professor at Sookmyung Women’s University. Professor Ahn said he felt “men of letters” were being resurrected on this blog. Journalism at its early stage was created when letters written by renowned intellectuals were published. Lately, famous American law experts, scholars and professionals have posted items sharing their knowledge and experience on the Internet. The blog from Mr. Becker, a Nobel Prize laureate in economics, and Judge Posner is a good example of this.
On their blog, one author raises an issue and another posts his opinion in response. Their joint blog began on Dec. 5, 2004, and a new debate is launched every Monday. They deal with a range of topics such as taxes on fatty food and DDT use at home. The latest posting is titled, “Should we worry about overpopulation?” Quoting economist Friedrich August von Hayek, they explained the purpose of the blog as an effort to create a mechanism to share knowledge among the people.
The Internet was born with a grand purpose. In the United States, people invented the Internet to connect networks from the military, science and education. But in South Korea the Internet started quite differently. Young people were the major users and most middle-aged and elderly citizens were, initially, isolated from the Web. The Internet here has been used mostly as a tool to meet the public’s demand for trivia. Unimportant information is abundant; vulgar language and abnormal psychology are thrown in with everything. As serious debate cannot be found on the Korean language Internet, intellectuals have ignored the Internet until recently.
The Internet has grown into the most powerful tool of pop culture. It’s useless to say let’s remove or reduce this influence. But the Internet should serve as a tool not only to spread pop culture but to create quality information and channels to deliver it; the biggest problem in our Internet culture is the low quality of content. Renowned intellectuals are not motivated to share their knowledge or to work with other people using the Internet.
Wikipedia demonstrates this problem. Since 2001, Web surfers around the world have added content to this interactive on-line encyclopedia. Users upload what they know about a subject on to this Web site. The volume of information has exceeded that of Encyclopedia Britannica, with 200 Wikipedia sites in different languages. But the Wikipedia Korean site is weak. A South Korean judge wrote, “The numbers of South Koreans who go online are in the world’s top 10. However, in terms of the volume of Wikipedia users, the Korean version is ranked only 10th. More people should participate on this site.”
On the Internet, the young and the old, pop culture and quality should coexist. Fortunately, middle-aged people lately have come to use the Internet almost as much as young people, and so have an increasing number of the elderly. But when it comes to the quality of content, there’s a long way to go. So-called knowledge on major portal sites is mostly trivial or old information. Intellectuals should take part in the Internet culture and provide what it currently lacks. I want to see great intellectuals engage in quality debates on their blogs, as Mr. Becker and Mr. Posner do every Monday.
* The writer is the investigative news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Kyu-youn