The BBC has been running a series of programs on the effects of the internet and the World Wide Web on society called The Virtual Revolution. Fronted by Aleks Krotoski, it’s been a relatively good exploration of both the history and the societal effects of the Web. The fourth, and final, programme of the series looked at the societal impact of the web in more detail. It contained the inevitable soundbite from Baroness Greenfield expressing concerns about the negative impact on the brains of our youth, but this was rather nicely called “an extreme position” by Krotoski. The point is that there’s really little evidence either way – just plenty of anecdotes.
To try and address this lack of research, the BBC joined forces with Professor David Nicolas, head of the CIBER research group at University College London and Professor Clifford Nass of Stanford University. A Web Behaviour Test has been launched in order to try and gather more data. The professors propose that there are eight different archetypes of people who interact with the web, and have defined their characteristics in terms of animals (fox, hedgehog, etc.). If you take the test, you will be shown which archetype of web user you are. Apparently, I’m a bear:
Slow-moving – Web Bears browse the internet at a leisurely pace – just like real world bears who like to take their time over things.
Solitary – Like real bears, Web Bears tend to be solitary animals. My results show that when I am looking for information, I am less likely to use social networks or other sites whose content is created by its users, preferring instead to go it alone.
Adaptable – Web Bears are highly adaptable multitaskers, able to do several things at the same time. Real-bears are also very flexible, particularly in their diet, and will eat fish, insects, salmon and even scavenge in human refuse for new sources of food.
I’m not sure about the eating insects bit, or scavenging in human refuse, mind.