The Blind Men, The Elephant, & the Internet

The Internet actually has much in common with the elephant in the well-known Indian tale of the Blind Men & the Elephant. In the story, the six blind men each encounter only one portion of the animal and come back with six wildly varying descriptions for the rajah.

The first blind man, who examined the side and decided it was like a wall, would also have been impressed by the immensity of Internet traffic being conducted by Usenet, various listserv, newsletter, & mailing list, & file swapping (e.g. Napster) users.

The second blind man, who was given the trunk to study, might have also thought search engines & Web research to be somewhat "like a snake".

The third blind man, who was given the elephant's hard ivory tusk, might have compared Internet gamers (especially those conducting war games) to "sharp & deadly spears".

The fourth blind man, who was allowed to touch the elephant's four legs, in some retellings declares the elephant to be tree-like. The four legs could also be compared to women, senior, kid, and e-commerce users who each have Web sites especially tailored to appeal to them and their specific interests.

The fifth blind man got the ears, which could be compared to email and chat/instant messaging, respectively, which fan the globe and indeed sometimes seem to act as "magic carpets" bringing together friends and families separated by considerable geographic distances.

The sixth blind man got the tail, which could be compared to the wireless Internet. (Of course, we're assuming that the elephant's tail has an antenna at its end!)

Each of the above constituencies (the Usenet users, the Web information seekers, the gamers, the women, the seniors, the kids, the wireless users, etc.) literally use the Internet differently.

Women, in particular, are more interested in forming relationships with other women on the Web to discuss various life issues important to them at a given time. In fact, there are now more women on the Web than there are men. (as of an August 2000 study).

But all uses are equally valid.

So, just remember, your Internet may not be my Internet. But that is part of the richness of the wired world, that there are so many ways to access it and so many ways to enjoy it!

For more information see:

  • The Blind Men & The Elephant
  • What is Usenet?
  • Let's Talk: Email Newsletters & Mailing Lists
  • Find It Fast!
  • Gamers.com
  • iVillage.com: The Women's Network
  • Oxygen: a Woman's View of the World
  • Study: Women Now Online Majority
  • Seniornet.org | Senior Citizens |
  • KidsClick! | Searchopolis |
  • Taxing E-Commerce
  • Internet Email
  • Let's Talk: Chat
  • Wireless Web
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    Last Modified: 1/1/2001