Saturday, July 26, 2008

Harmony, Heresy, Hearsay, Hairspray

I was flattered to be asked recently to contribute to a book which is being compiled by a writer, but found myself struggling to articulate my mixed feelings on the subject matter, which is "web 2.0".

Aside from the fact that I already contributed a chapter on podcasting to a comprehensive book on the subject last year, I have become wary of entering into group enterprises without ensuring that my contribution was going to be welcome. "I'm not cynical, but..." I heard myself saying, and that was the point at which I remembered.

Cynicism is the refuge of the disappointed romantic. Have I been romantic about the internet? The answer to that is - of course, since I have been a romantic person and probably will be a romantic person. What do I mean by that? I suppose I mean that I have idealised the web and its potential for affording change, both in my own life - even though fourteen years ago it was instrumental in changing my fortunes and re-orienting me - and in the lives of others. But have the changes been anything other than superficial?

I remember the web before porn. I remember the effort it took to simply download a single page which included images. I had to learn HTML to produce my own pages - when Blogger arrived, it was the time-saving device which I had been anticipating. Podcasting was always going to happen. So that makes me a one-time Model T Ford owner in an age of sleek, comfortable, airstreamed, air-bagged Macbook Air fans. Do I see any improvements in communication because of the prevalence of the internet?

Do I compare thee to the telephone, to the printing press, to radio and television? Do I refer to my feeling of growing uneasiness as Google becomes the de facto font of all knowledge, gobbling up the world's entire library of books, recording your neighbourhood, your street, your home, replacing the verb "to search"? Do I reserve my obscure pride in knowing how this all works and being able to usurp it for my own ends for quiet moments of reflection with intimate friends, or do I write a blog post which will be indexed and added to the file on Blogger user 13492090203145178551 (it used to be much shorter, but because my blog is so big, I couldn't migrate to the New Blogger until after million of other people), profile viewed 11,839 times as of now, containing the same fictional mantras as repeated elsewhere, presenting a carefully constructed lie about me, the person?

Does the internet, ancient or modern, actually assist anyone in communicating better, more effectively whatever that means, more profoundly, or is it just about convenience? Ease of access, speed of output. No need to scratch the surface of the paper, no need for the mark, the finger pressure - not even the old sound of metal laboriously hitting ribbon, with the occasional pause for correction fluid.

We don't take risks without referring to this know-all engine. We cease to make journeys if the weather prediction is less than optimum. We cease to consider a thought worthy of note unless it is transmitted, tagged, tweeted, bookmarked. We cease to conduct relationships face to face even in physical presence. We have become confused by the 2,140,000,000 results for "love" (related searches: love poems, courtney love, love quotes, love quizzes) and we click click click through the pages instead of finding the love in our hearts. What used to be our living flesh, beating, vulnerable blood-soaked muscle, is just smooth silicon, sand slipping unstoppably away.

We don't need more, we need less. Less speed, less reach, less hard drive space, less bluetooth add-ons, less menu options, less podcasts, less widgets, less friends. Better to maintain the value with the friends we actually have, to develop what we call our "internet friends" into bona fide, appreciative, supportive, substantial, respectful relationships. Best to remember Dunbar and our limited capacity for meaningful engagement.

"To seek," said Picasso, "is nothing. To find is the thing." And now we say, "to find is nothing. To share is the thing."

I just had to share that with you.

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4 Comments:

At 1:47 AM, Blogger Del "D-Y-D" quoth...

awesome post.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Indigobusiness quoth...

The web is just our contemporary tool for chronicling our collective demise...with little actual residue. Being so chic and civilized we accomplish the necessary without littering.

This just occurred to me as I read your post, and I didn't really feel like so much roadkill on the information superhighway until I saw Picasso so at ease with his yamsack. I then realized how doomed we truly are.

"Drink to me..."

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger dweller quoth...

amen,
what a killer post!!!

I just wish I'd heard it from someone whilst relaxing in a park rather than reading it from the screen...

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger peter.w quoth...

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