The Worldwide Work Web


Work occupies a great deal of people’s time and attention; it has played a central role in shaping a sense of worth and identity. Technological developments have at least indirectly shaped how people experience the place of work in their lives.

Each wave of new technology has led to new kinds of systems, new ways of creating tools, new forms of data; often overturning their predecessors. Yet, the development of computing technologies is more than a chain of innovation; a process that has been a hallmark of physical technologies that shape our world.

For example, there is a chain of inspiration from waterwheel, to steam engine, to internal combustion engine. Underlying this is a process of enablement; the industry of steam engine construction yielded the skills, materials, and tools used in the construction of the first internal combustion engines. In computing, however, new technologies emerge, not only by replacing predecessors, but also by enveloping them; hence, creating platforms on which it reinvents itself to reach the next platform.

During the 1970s and 1980s, there were independent advances in the availability of cheap, fast computing, affordable disk storage, and networking. Compute and storage were taken up in personal computers, which at that stage were standalone, used almost entirely for gaming and word processing. At the same time, networking technologies became pervasive in university computer science departments, where they enabled, for the first time, the collaborative development of software.

A culture of open-source development emerged; widely spread communities not only used common operating systems, programming languages and tools, but collaboratively contributed to them. As networks spread, tools developed in one place could be rapidly promoted, shared, and deployed elsewhere. This dramatically changed the notion of software ownership, of how software was designed and created, and of who controlled the environments we use.

The networks themselves became more uniform and interlinked, creating the global Internet; a digital traffic infrastructure. Increases in computing power meant there was spare capacity for providing services remotely. The decline of cost of disk meant that system administrators could set aside storage to host repositories that could be accessed globally. The Internet was, thus, used not just for E-mail and chat forums, but increasingly as an exchange mechanism for data. This has not only led to breaking barriers in computing, but in the nature of work itself.

Nowadays, we need not be chained to our offices or restricted to a specific work team to get great work done. We can now work anywhere, with anyone, at any time, for the best of our pursued goals; the sky is, thus, the limit to what we can achieve. Not only that, even acquiring the necessary education and skills to better ourselves at work and expand our abilities and potential, we are no longer confined to classrooms or strict class hours. It is no wonder then that knowledge, innovation, and production are now at their zenith; yet, it is only just the beginning.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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