Building a Better Web
Greg McVerry in his own words | A Network50 Spotlight
By Greg McVerry
Few generations get to live through a monumental shift in humanity. So I feel blessed to watch the birth and growth of the internet, and the web more specifically. No tool in our history has spread with greater scope and sequence. The “book”, which democratized reading, took 800 years to reach only a small percentage of world populations. The web, which created generations of writers, publishers, and makers, has reached billions in under three decades.
There is no tech industry. No online or offline, no digital natives. The web simply is. It is a fabric connecting our society. It is how we read, write, and participate as global citizens. I engage in my work to build a better web because it is one of the best ways I know to build a better world.
The web also gives us a chance…no, requires us…to rethink the academy and education in general. We need to move to a focus where we try to change the world not chase citations. The current status quo in higher ed does not serve those who do the learning or facilitate the knowledge growth. I do not want to study how we have learned. Instead I would like to iterate on the web to study how we will learn.
So I engage in building a better web as I believe academic research requires a formative and iterative design process similar to those used to build the products, peoples and tools that support our connected society. Why should a journal article read by a few hundred people, where I do all the work and then pass off my copyright to large multinational corporations, matter more to academics than helping to build an open source tool like Thimble that is used across the globe?
Most importantly I work with others to help design and ensure a better future. The web faces global threats that can recreate inequities that have long threatened our society. Over the last three decades the web was built by those figuring out who they were in new digital places. Now major corporations use the web to try and sell us on who we are. The major identity work of today’s youth has become a product commodity. The loss of net neutrality in the United States of America, broken copyright in the Europe Union, and the billions more who will come across all six continents require citizen action.
We stand at a crossroad. We can allow the web to be one of the greatest democratizing forces in our history or we can watch market forces subdue our dream into tightly controlled silos where our privacy and potential are sold to the highest bidder.
When it comes to what drives me to our work it is a simple matter of fact: we simply can’t afford not to help build a better web.
Greg McVerry is an Ed-Tech entrepreneur, teacher, and digital inclusion advocate. He works as an Associate Professor of Education at Southern Connecticut State University. He has been active in the internet health movement as a Club Captain and a technical contributor. He is a member of our first cohort of “Network50.”