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Monday, October 19, 2015

Strategic CSR - The internet

The article in the url below questions the value of the internet from a society-wide perspective. It is a review of a book titled The Internet Is Not The Answer, which takes a broad look at how the internet has changed us and the way we interact, and questions whether we are better off as a result:
"Andrew Keen should proudly wear the label of 21st-century Luddite. His new book … is a packed compendium of all the ways digital life casts aside basic human virtues in favor of a rapacious, winner-takes-all economy."
The review highlights two aspects of Keen's argument – the effects of the internet on economic exchange and on social exchange. In terms of commerce, Keen notes that the most successful internet companies today employ a fraction of the people of the companies they are replacing:
"He points to what he describes as Amazon's brutally efficient business methodology, which has squeezed jobs out of every sector of retail, according to a 2013 Institute for Local Self-Reliance report that Keen cites. The report says brick-and-mortar retailers employ 47 people for every $10 million in sales, while Amazon employs only 14. … [Also] consider that the 700-person start-up Airbnb, which allows users to rent their apartments like hotel rooms, was valued at $10 billion this past spring [now $40 billion], about half as much as the Hilton corporation, which employs 152,000 people. Meanwhile, … the car-sharing company Uber employs 1,000 people and is valued at $18.2 billion, which gives it about the same valuation as Avis and Hertz combined — except that those two car-rental companies employ almost 60,000 people."
In terms of social exchange, Keen focuses on what David Brooks has called the "culture of me" (see Strategic CSR – Moral character):
"In a chapter called 'The Personal Revolution,' he describes our descent into 'the pre-Copernican belief' that the universe revolves around us: Social networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter encourage an ahistorical mentality, and while they promise to get us in touch with others, they usually breed narcissists instead. … Consider: 'Almost 50% of the photos taken on Instagram in the United Kingdom by 14-21-year-olds are selfies, many of whom use this medium to reify their existence.'"
In conclusion, the reviewer states:
"The Internet is, indeed, not the answer. It is, rather, the all-consuming question of the first half of the 21st century."
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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No, the Web isn't making the world a better place
By Michael Harris
January 2, 2015
The Washington Post
Late Edition – Final