As the web expands, signs of urban decay abound in broken links and abandoned projects. Sometimes you can find yourself in a creepy part of the city without really knowing. As James Temple tells us: "Predators have long used the internet to find young victims but online safety experts say social networks and mobile apps that roughly indicate the location of users simplify the task".
Virginia Heffernan, author of The Digital Revolution, spells out more obstacles: "Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters of the web unsafe and unsanitary.Bullies and hucksters roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble seem to dominate major sites. What's more, lots of people feel watched. So whether you're law-abiding and threatened by pranksters, or a prankster and threatened by scrutiny, it can feel like New York City in the 1970s on the web''.
Not completely unrelated to this pandemonium in the streets, we find organisations and communities being born online. The city is shaped by its occupants -- good or bad, outspoken or shy, motivated by gaming, hacking, fashion or politics. The online city has its main streets, media websites and online stores, but it is the back alleys -- tweets, blogs and comments --- that house arguments, controversy and, dare I say it, even grassroots movements.
Recent uprisings in Greece, the UK, North Africa, America and the Middle East demonstrate the ways in which the web offers a space for regulated, oppressed, marginalised, everyday voices to be heard. In some cases, for instance in Tunisia and China, the use of the internet has been heavily regulated, however, activists in other countries have occupied the web to mobilise and resist social and political pressures.
While the web is for some a frightening, dark endless metropolis, it is for others a place where side streets and nooks lead to friends and collaborators. The people who occupy these back streets might question if they are just empty voices in the wilderness of cyberspace. They might ask if anyone is listening.
As more and more people flock to the city, some with directions others without, it seems that words and images, videos and tweets are not going to waste. Instead they are reaching people like you and me, complete with an invitation to call the digital wilderness home.