One of the great achievements of the Internet has been to put all kinds of information at the fingertips of millions of people. From online encyclopaedias to search engines, some of the most successful online services have been ways of providing answers to people’s questions. It’s not surprising, then, that more and more young people are relying on the Internet to answer their questions about that most uncomfortable of topics: sex. Some people, in fact, have even suggested that the Internet makes those awkward, politically troublesome sex ed. classes irrelevant. In the age of Google, is sex ed. necessary?

“Who steals my purse steals trash,” Shakespeare wrote, “but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”

Joe McGinniss’ book The Selling of the President had a shocking title for 1968, suggesting as it did that in the television age the presidency had become nothing more than another product to be packaged and sold. A new MNet resource, Watching the Elections (a lesson for Grade 8 to 12 Social Studies classes), shines a light on how the different aspects of an election – from the debates to political ads to the candidates themselves – are actually media products.

Formerly a largely peaceful and orderly place, inhabited by craftspeople, entertainers and wise Jedi, the galaxy – that is to say, the world of Star Wars Galaxies, the massively multiplayer online game (MMO) based on the movie franchise – is now a world of ruthless bounty hunters and blaster-happy fighter pilots. Where success could once be achieved by a number of paths, it now consists of, in the words of the game’s senior director Nancy MacIntye, “instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat.”

Note: this is the fifth in a series of blogs looking at the history and future of Web 2.0. The user-participation culture of Web 2.0 has begun to change the worlds of music, movies, animation, games and even encyclopedias, but in no area does the change promise to be as deep and fundamental as in the world of news. While other aspects of user-created content blur the line between authors and audiences, the line remains there: it still takes tremendous skill and effort to make a mashup or a fan movie, even if Web 2.0 has made those things easier to distribute. Some have suggested, though, that it will change journalism in a much more radical way – perhaps altering our idea of what journalism is entirely.

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