Tag Archives: Internet

Internet Explorer

It’s hard to locate the internet. Where exactly does it exist? Can I hold it in my hand? Is it bigger than a breadbox?

I can’t define it but I know I love the internet. It takes me so many places, in my underwear, alone. Recently my neighborhood experienced an outage. The entire fifteen minutes without a connection left me in a panic. You don’t realize your love for something until you can’t log into your email.

Even when I’m not online I’m comforted by the thought that the internet’s humming along without me, anxious for our next point-and-click affair. With broadband speeds like these, who needs friends?

I use the web for information mostly. Everyone I meet is always so cordial and everything you read online has been verified by experts. Even spammers and trolls mean well. They’re just creative types without direction.

Of course knowing about a particular subject does not imply mastery. You cannot think the world into submission. That’s what Google is for. And you can only find Google on the internet.

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Page Not Found (Refreshed)

I wasn’t happy with my original Page Not Found post from May 7, so I refreshed it and deleted the old one.

***

Books are self-contained bodies of knowledge. Readers searching for deeper connections are free to scan their references and head to the library for more books. This is the tradition of scholarship.

The Internet is a sprawling, image-saturated map with no territory. It leads users on an open-ended quest for pseudoscience, celebrity gossip and mounting piles of pornographic truths.

Books are heavy. The Web is far more mobile.

There are apps today for everything, including one that tests kids’ “logo literacy.” Parts of logos are missing but enough remains for players to recognize the company. This is about purchasing power, and the production of future consumers. Knowledge means finding the best deals before the Joneses pull up in their minivans.

Reading entails patience, context and attention to nuance. Its pleasure is often deferred. Googling is the drive for immediacy, “just the facts.” It’s a data game rigged by clever search engine optimizers in which sources link but nothing clicks.

Consumerist culture is raising a generation of browsers with no history but the accumulation of cache. Few can sit still long enough to digest the news.

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Engaging Critical Thinking

We’re still learning how the Internet is affecting communication. It’s clear, though, that our daily online experience has fundamentally altered the act of reading. I’ll let Alan Kirby, a PhD in twentieth-century literature and culture, explain via metaphor what’s going on here:

If literary research is like marriage (a mind entwined with the tastes, whims, and thoughts of another for years) and ordinary reading is like dating (a mind entwined with another for a limited, pleasure-governed but intimate time), then Internet reading often resembles gazing from a second-floor window at the passersby on the street below. It’s dispassionate and uninvolved, and implicitly embraces a sense of frustration, an incapacity to engage.

–Alan Kirby, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture, 2009, pp. 67-8.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that the average reader needs to enter the marriage that is literary research, but I am suggesting that ordinary reading (the dating in Kirby’s analysis) is a lost art in the post-Internet age.

Most people skim articles for information and then move on to the next enticing mouse-click, wherein they skim again, digesting little beyond the juicy headline. When it’s a piece on Jennifer Aniston getting engaged, this is often an effective strategy. After all, we’ve yet to read the next link regarding Kristen Stewart and her cheating ways.

But treading the surface of facts without diving in and immersing oneself in the whole story goes beyond reading articles and into thinking critically, especially where politics is concerned.

Politicians have always been hard to read; now it’s nearly impossible. The practical implications of our ignorance are mounting. How can we make informed decisions about Mitt Romney or President Obama if we only skim their sound bites and talking points?

Looking out the window at passersby might be temporarily pleasing, but to peek out the curtains for a few seconds is a terrible approach when you’re choosing the leader of the free world. Let’s take critical thinking out for dinner and a movie before November 6. We might just fall in love with reasoning.

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Falling For A High-Wire Act

There’s not much room for poetry in the world today. Most of the texts produced now are text messages, not works of art. As someone who calls himself a poet, I’ve been wondering lately what this means for the future of poetry.

First, some history.

When we look to the literary period that began in the late nineteenth century and ended in the mid twentieth, the time known as modernism, we see the importance of voice in poetry. Modernist poets focused on developing their own unique style, their voice, as a vehicle for conveying their message. There was a sense that the poet could change society through art, even while the effects of modernity were sweeping across the globe, bringing about two world wars and mass anxiety.

Then came the 1960s, when culture blew itself up. Enter postmodernism and the assault on identity. Some theorists went so far as to announce “the death of the subject”; others insisted that the concept of an individual subject standing before objects-in-the-world was a fantasy in the first place, an illusion man held onto in the face of ever-changing realities (forget Reality) over which he had no control. Postmodernist poets found themselves imitating older styles, assuming distant voices as a means of mocking them and highlighting their insistence that there were no new voices to create.

Fast-forward to today. Culture in the early twenty-first century has eluded labeling. For our purposes, let’s give contemporary life the cumbersome title of post-postmodernism.

The internet has changed reality in ways we’ve yet to comprehend, and post-postmodernist poetry is still finding its way in a cultural landscape where Facebook and Twitter take up huge chunks of our day. Poetry’s not dead but at times appears to be on life support. We haven’t lost our desire for creativity—we just don’t rely as much on traditional activities (see Reading and Writing) for quenching our creative thirst. There’s a void in poetry today, a sense that it’s a matter of poets talking only to poets, that the common man has been excluded.

Last week Nik Wallenda wrote the masses a new, refreshing poem.

Wallenda is the daredevil who walked 1,800 feet across Niagara Falls on a two-inch wire on, what else, live TV. The self-proclaimed “King of the Wire” drew 13.1 million viewers on June 15, and many folks are still talking and tweeting and blogging about his feat.

Utilizing heroic action and the threat of disaster, Wallenda’s poem reminded us how much we’ve lost while trying to conquer Nature through technology. He recaptured the narrative of our conquest before we lost sense of it, many of us today blind to “the world-out-there” as we scroll through our majestic iPad screens to comment on the latest piano-playing cat clip on YouTube.

For a moment, Wallenda brought us out of our collective trance. We all became daredevils, anxious to hear the showman confess how much he had prayed for this to happen, how he had asked God for the strength to accomplish his goal of inspiring the world.

“Live your dreams,” he declared in full-blown superficiality.

In a country where most of us don’t get to live our dreams, where the promise of success to everyone who “tries” has been seen for the ruse it truly is, we needed this new poetry, this real-life illusion of renewed control.

Wallenda stayed upright the whole way, penning his epic poem. And we gladly fell for his act.

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The Dating Game

TABLE FOR TWO

We connected on the internet
Auto-matched by profile page
I set a date for a closer look
After breezing through the intro stage

In the bookstore café she arrived
Smiling with a “nice to meet you”
The give-and-take of partial truths
Engaging strangers at a table for two

Three hours in we had to split
She went left and I turned right
If I factored in her future plans
She wasn’t letting on that night

But a morning text made it clear
“No connection–nice to meet you”
Her goodbye leaving me confused
Alone again at a table for two

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Pixels, Not Passion

The Internet has its advantages.  Without it this blog entry would not be possible.  But like anything else in this world, the Web has some major downsides.

Today people all across the globe have instant access to each other.  We have the opportunity to unite under the banner of common interests and shared causes.

Instead of going online to fight against the powers that be, however, many of us find ourselves escaping reality altogether.  The Internet, with its dazzling hyperlinked images, renders us numb, agents of our own pacification.

Pixels, not passion, rule us online.

A potential tool of resistance, the Web merely strengthens the oppressive hold of capitalism upon individual consumers.  We’ve sold our autonomy for the ability to buy and sell goods from the comfort of our homes, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Any desire to challenge authority has been replaced with the need for entertainment, for diversion, for image-yearning.  Our enemies keep us down by increasing our connection speeds.  By logging in we log off from the truth.

There’s no escaping our desire to escape from reality, especially when what we once considered real has been forever digitized.  Like the latest YouTube video sensation, our submission has gone viral.

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