Flat Landscapes

Here is a conversation I am having with my friend Ari on Facebook about the nature of…well lots of things really. Feel free to jump in on either side. Please excuse all grammar gaffs and typos. Thoughts were written in the haste of FB commentary:

Ari : i love the internet (meta comment, i know), but i also feel more than a bit unsettled in the landscape of the internet…maybe it’s the virtual-ness or that it’s screen dependant (and thus 1-D)…i dont know. MAYBE IT’S A SPATIAL THING…maybe i dont do well in the 1-D world??

Jabiz : I know we have been having this conversation a lot lately, and that is great, but I guess I don’t see the web as 1-D, but more as 4-D. The screen is just an entry to a world that is very rich and full of depth if you are open to it and explore the people that populate it. People tell us it is shallow but I have learned it really is not if you look beyond the 1 D surfaces.

Ari : with love, jabiz, i find your argument beautiful (and vaguely utopian), but i dont believe it holds up to even the most facile scrutiny. from any objective point of view (that is what we are trying to work from, no?), the internet is 1D. we argue about its FIGURATIVE 4D-ness…but not without our language going on holiday. the internet is consumerd via a screen. screens are 1D. now, moving on: my bigger point was that i dont work well in virtual 1D spaces…like TV, etc…the internet flattens the 3D world into 1D. and thats not an inherent problem. hell, it’s probabaly a good thing. but i just dont well with in virtual 1D environments

Jabiz :I know you would like to simply move on from one point to the next, but when having a conversation you have to wait till both sides can have their say. So i would graciously ask that before we “move on” from the semantics of the screen bein…g the 1Dness, you re-read my earlier point, because either you skimmed it, didn’t understand it or simply chose to ignore what I said. The Internet is not any one thing. So therefore to give to dimensions seems futile. Much like literature, art, and consciousness the Internet is a reflection of the human story. It is about people. Our world wide web of thought and creativity. How can we call that 1-D? As for 1D things like TV that you don’t do well with , I seem to recall you enjoyed books another 1D tool used to explore the human story. The Internet like a mirror is what you see in it. It’s shape and dimensions what you produce not just consume. Going back to your original point of being unsettled, I would recommend an inventory of the self, before assigning blame on the mirror (Internet or screens)

Ari : ha! nice zingers, jabiz! very zesty, indeed. now for some housekeeping: i think you, also, didnt truly read my point–which was a description–okay, fine, a critique–of the “landscape” of the internet…and how we “consume” it (note well ……the two words in quotes…which if you trace back to my earlier comments you will find conspicuously foregrounded). …so: okay, yes, the Internet gestures as a trans-social/historical/political dynamic. i concede the point. but that’s neither here nor there in how we both understand the Internet proper (note the word, proper–i.e., the thing one logs on to, that needs electricity, a screen, some sort of computer-y thing, zeros and ones, et. al). simply put: the internet proper is a virtual landscape. …now, of course, that doesnt mean EVERYTHING that goes into producing, sharing, consuming (insert your own gerund here!) is virtual (e.g., the fingers depressing the letters on my computer’s keyboard–how’s THAT for meta, jabiz?)…but…it DOES mean that, quite simply, the CONTENT–for good or ill–is virtual. maybe it’s for good…but thats neither here nor there, at least for me. it’s not value judgment; it’s an neutral observation: the content of the Net is virtual…and therefore so is the landscape. …and how we consume…strictly speaking…the virtual internet proper is screen-dependent…thus all 3D is FLATTENED into 1D. …why all this matters (if any of it matters)…is that i, personally, dont do well in this flat landscape where all cognitive maps and kinesthetic cues are virtual and flat (in the strictest terms of which ive just spent far too long adumbrating). …now jabiz, you are free to take an oppositional stance toward my argument. and no doubt you will. but as you are an educator and deep thinker, why retreat in an automatic defensive crouch? (have i fired any pejorative shots across the sacred bow of the Internet? no. i’ve conceded your points re: the Net as a social, living phenomena, etc.) and perhaps even more important, as a technology teacher/learner, you will, no doubt, encounter many students who also feel a sense of dislocation in this virtual space that lacks tactile kinesthetic cues and traditional cognitive maps…and i just hope that while you may blithely dismiss my points out of hand…you wont be so eager to pounce on their hesitations so lustily.

Jabiz : I will keep my retort shorter and less snappy. I will start with a concession: Yes the content on the Internet is virtual. My point is that there is more to the Internet than content. I see it as a portal to people. What I am exploring is …the creation and fostering of these relationships in a 3d as possible manner as possible. You are right again that these relationships are flattened to an extent online, but they can be amplified as well. I can understand what you say that you are nor well-equipped in this environment, hence your hesitance to use Skype after five years! I am not arguing for the sake of arguing, but because in a sense understanding the Internet in what ever dimensionality we choose has becomes my career in ways. I am trying to understand how it will works to …help my students and my own kids navigate this new landscape to get the most they can from it. Of course you are right that many things are better when done in real life. I think of swimming in the ocean as one, but finding ways to penetrate these relationships with other people (who are very 3d) seems very important. Final note, books are also an entry way into a 1D landscape that represents a broader deeper world. No? Isn’t prose also a, “flat landscape where all cognitive maps and kinesthetic cues are virtual and flat?” So to wrap up: Internet is not just about content to be consumed, but a place to meet people. Also there is other media that is 1D, but we have been able to imply meaning and depth to it. So the Internet can be what we make it. Yes, the wor…ld is too much for the the Internet to handle and that os a GREAT thing. Go our run yoga, hug, hike, swim, breathe long and deep, log-out and don’t sign back in, but what I am saying is that the Internet is filled with real live people trying to represent those joys and fears and life into this weird new landscape. The web is our collective ongoing novel. Meet the authors, be one, or ignore it all. Final, final point: I am not dismissing your points blithely or in any other way, simply engaging in discussion. As I am having this discussion with people on blogs, Skype, real life and conferences- it is my job. And yes there will be or a…re students who feel as you do, and I am having these talks to try and find ways to help them. I don;t see this as fight, but as a conversation. Maybe if we were together or at least on Skype there would be some cognitive maps and kinesthetic cues, till then I have to rely on my writing skills and hope that I can convey tone and mood though my word choice. Maybe an emotican will help 😉 (Winking face to denote snarky toungue in cheek reply to an online exchange)

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One thought on “Flat Landscapes

  1. avatarJabiz Post author

    G-Chat with Ari, 12 hours later:

    lets chat about the internet for a sec
    me: And you say there are no Kinesthetic clues.
    Really?
    Ari: yeah
    me: We are on such a role.
    8:50 PM roll
    Wouldn’t it be better showcased in FB or the blog?
    Ari: yeah…lets do that too.
    PROMISE
    me: Sure.
    Ari: but i want some real time backand forth
    me: go.
    8:51 PM Ari: the reason
    the internet
    is diff than tv and books
    and other mediums that flattened
    flatten
    (to the extent they do flatten)
    …the thing with the net
    is it is the universal medium
    all mediums go through it
    8:52 PM yourbook doesnt play music
    stream video
    act as a research tool
    or store photos
    or create art
    etc
    million other examples
    me: That is exactly why I see it as so much more multi-dimensional.
    Ari: let me say one quick thing
    8:53 PM me: shoot
    Ari: isnt there a diff betwen multidimensional and multimedia
    ???????????
    me: Not sure.
    8:54 PM continue
    Ari: good answer
    …welll…
    Ari: speaking in strict, literal
    terms:
    the internet…to me…
    8:55 PM is multimedia…
    (As in “many forms of communication//expression, conduits of content…etc)
    but it is not multidimensional
    over if it is…it is megadimensional
    8:56 PM me: megadimensional
    Wow!
    metadimensional?
    Can I talk?
    Ari: want to say one final point
    vrrrrrry quickly
    me: go
    Ari: …which is:
    8:57 PM you cant call the internet,,,if we are being literal…multidimensional
    any more than you can call Life
    multidimensional
    the internet is the closest thing we have come to reproducing life
    ###
    8:58 PM me: That is exactly what I have been thinking about all day.
    Ari: !
    me: This idea that life “reality” as we experience is any more “real” that what we call virtual.
    8:59 PM Yes, we experience real lie through our senses and this is lost on the internet.
    But one could argue that you have never really experienced real life since you have never experimented with extra sensory drugs.
    9:00 PM My point being that “reality” is hard to define an how we experience it differs from for all people.
    Ari: yes…
    me: Stay with me here.
    Ari: funny how these question
    stretch back to some of the very first philospical questions
    “what is real…what is reality…and how can i know it?
    9:01 PM me: So maybe your angst about seeing the web flattened is related to how you experience reality in other aspects of life.
    Exactly.
    Don’t Buddhist basically say that all reality is illusion.
    Ari: the Internet reintroduces all these age questions..because
    me: So that who is to say that the web is any less or more real than reality.
    Ari: the Internet is reintroducing life
    (HA, that line!)
    me: it simply is part of reality
    9:02 PM there is no virtual or real.
    Just reality as we experience it. Some kinesthetically through smell, through fucking, through oceans…some is mental, meta- Internet, art, text, some is spiritual etc…
    9:03 PM The web is a piece of shared consciousness. It is pieces of our group mind reflecting back at us.
    How we connect to it or disconnect from it, is up to us.
    9:04 PM It is not meant to replace real life. So many people are afraid of the virtual taking over the real, it i an extension of it.
    Sorry, I will stop.
    thoughts?
    Ari: no…this is good.
    i think the really REALLY
    deep question we are finally getting around to is:
    9:05 PM ….what is real…what is reality…
    me: We both need to read more of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan
    Ari: and is virtual reality…
    and lesser form of reality
    me: Yes!
    Ari: or just a different form of it
    me: Exactly.
    Ari: adjacent in some way
    i have read MM.
    me: I haven’t read enough.
    Ari: is idea is that all technology is EXTENSION
    9:06 PM of ourselfves and our senses and a
    me: Did you know Doug Copeland is doing some weird performance with his work.
    Ari: wow
    no.
    for example…with MM…
    the phone is just tech to EXTEND our voices
    the car EXTENDS our feet
    and on and on…
    makes sense
    9:07 PM me: what does the web extend?
    Ari: LIFE
    !
    !!!!!!!
    omg!
    just realized that
    me: Sure.
    I was going to say consciousness.
    but life could work.
    9:08 PM reality could work too
    The web extends reality.
    Of course, like you said it is missing the other senses.
    Ari: i was once talking to mimi.
    and i said…something like…
    me: If we want to get all hippy dippy and new agey, maybe we need to connect on that level. On a cosmic, spiritual level.
    Ari: if you take any other thing…
    9:09 PM me: But we won’t go there, cuz I love the organic stuff too much.
    go on.
    Ari: and look
    for its closest companion

    Ari: its antecedent
    or whatever
    Ari: the car….you could say …well…the horse
    the phone..well…
    letters
    tv..the stage…
    CDs….
    me: loving this
    9:10 PM Ari: live music performances…
    etc…
    photography
    …painting
    right?
    me: yes.
    please end up someplace great with this “)
    Ari: and then i said…well…what the closest thing to the internet…
    and the answer: LIFE
    !
    9:11 PM me: Not sure.
    I need to think about that one.
    Ari: its the universal medium….
    the internet is…
    and so i life.
    but back to reality v. virtual
    9:12 PM lets talk about that some more
    me: ok
    Ari: …well…here is a quyestion
    …can something be virtual…
    and still real….
    though not part of reality proper
    ?
    me: Define virtual
    define real
    9:13 PM define reality
    Ari: i know it when i see it :
    me: a dream?
    where does that sit?
    Ari: hmmm….
    me: god?
    Ari: def virtual
    9:14 PM me: what Stevie Wonder sees?
    Ari: hmmm…
    Ari: what about a sentence in the subjunctive mood
    me: example
    9:15 PM btw I no longer have any answers. Just exploring with you
    Is this real?
    Ari: “if i were young again, i wouldnt go to usc for college)
    the “if” makes it subjunctive
    ….(me too, btw)
    me: Where is this conversation happening? Would it be more real if we were siting in the same room?
    Ari: define real
    seriously, btw
    9:16 PM me: Is this a virtual experience, right now?
    or a real one? explain your answer
    Ari: this is a virtual one
    for sure.
    here is why…
    becuase it is a simulation of a “real” event
    9:17 PM simulation
    is key
    me: What would make it real?
    Would it be real on the phone?
    Ari: the answer is quite scary:
    time
    .
    me: execute
    9:18 PM Ari: well..and i am just realzing this as i think it…
    but all my norms for real v. virtual
    are based on traditional ways humans have engaged withthe world and one another…
    once i cant “appeal” to tradition….
    anymore…
    than how do i define the “real”
    9:19 PM …what real….is only whats been established as the real
    over TIME
    ..as norms shift, and modes of discourse become more and more virtual…
    the idea of virtual will seem naive
    me: For many it already does!
    Ari: and the OLD ways will seem just one step
    toward where we are now
    9:20 PM not “the standard” from which to judge all others
    yes…but…that exuberance you mention could
    also be irrational
    me: for sure
    9:21 PM trying to be somewhere we aren’t yet.
    Ari: a sort of techie tulip mania
    me: A second life fantasy
    You should go there for a while if you really want to freak out
    Ari: when was the last time you did
    me: A few months ago for lecture!
    9:22 PM Ari: h
    a
    ha
    cool
    seriously
    me: it wasn’t.
    Too clunky. Still too virtual.
    Didn’t feel as real as this
    What we have now.
    This conversation.
    Ari: k.
    me: The tech gets in the way.
    9:23 PM Ari: its an interesting question:
    …how do we define something as whether real or virtual..
    and what do we REALLY means by those words anyhow
    9:24 PM me: virtual |ˈvər ch oōəl|
    adjective
    almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict
    it is that sense of almostness that confuses us.
    But we can argue that reality is almost too. It can never be real.
    9:25 PM Again back to Zen, it is all illusion. None of this is real. It is all in our minds, so why is the web any less real than anything else.
    I think The Matrix has some answers too!
    Ari: again….prob TIME…
    9:26 PM we are always comparing the world of the web to the world without the web
    me: Time is the biggest illusion out there
    oh you mean history time of era not minutes.
    Ari: yes
    me: yeah, but Buddha said it was all illusion 5000 years ago
    Ari: the internet is a grain of sand….history wise…on the beach of the TIME
    yeah…i saw his tweet
    9:27 PM me: but what it represents, our consciousness, is timeless.
    Ari: …so final question before i go meet a friend for a weird run
    (yes, true, jabiz…)
    me: that full circle
    Ari: (represents….but not physical.
    thats the point i keep coming back to
    9:28 PM me: is a photograph physical?
    Ari: hmm….
    me: So maybe reality is physical>
    that seems too simple
    Ari: yes…but a photo is also tangible in the way the web is not
    and also…it is a single media
    not the universal medium
    me: What was last point.
    9:29 PM I have Trembe waiting
    Ari: okay, so last point:
    is there anything on the internet…and i dont know myself..so i am really asking this question in good faith,….is
    there anythng on the net that is some sort of reproducoitn of “real life”
    as in flickrr is a photoalbums
    9:30 PM only virtually so
    this gchat is ari and jabiz passing notes back and forth in high school
    only virtually so
    “is
    there anything on the net that is NOT some sort of reproduction of “real life”
    9:31 PM forgot the “NOT”
    shoot.
    me: Would this talk be different if we were talking on Skype? what would that be a reproduction of?
    9:32 PM Ari: a conversation
    me: Is that a reproduction of a conversation or a conversation?
    Ari: skype
    ?
    skype is a reproduction of a conversation
    me: What if we were making music together, you playing and me playing and recording live online
    9:33 PM skype is a reproduction of a conversation…I don’t agree. Skype is a conversation
    Ari: well…we did that in person….
    yes…it is.
    but a virtual one
    me: So than a phone call is virtual too
    Ari: yes
    me: Letters?
    Ari: hmmm…
    9:34 PM i dont know
    .
    me: So only physical contact is real?
    Ari: i dont know.
    me: That is the heart of our discussion.
    I don’t either.
    Ari: totally
    9:35 PM me: But I see this as a real conversation. it is no less real than of we were together.
    Ari: the phone doesn’t trouble me
    me too.
    but i ALSO (!!!!!!!) see it as virtual
    i see it as both.
    me: Just a different mode of transferring our ideas.
    Shit we might have ESP in the future
    Ari: i see it as both
    both virtual and real.
    me: If you see both than can;t they be teh same
    the!
    9:36 PM Can something be two things at once and not negate both?
    Ari: sure.
    me: or merge them
    Ari: the diff of mode…is more kind than degree…
    you see it as degree.
    9:37 PM i see it as kind.
    so thats what we are left to ponder….
    is there anything on the net that is not in real life
    ?
    me: no
    Ari: facebook…is just a walk around the village in Mozambique
    9:38 PM me: because all of it was created by real people.
    Ari: where you know everybody
    me: I have a former student from Mozambique as a friend on FB
    Ari: know that, you didnt
    me: Justin junior
    Ari: wow
    ….so do me a favor:
    9:39 PM me: he mentioned my Bob Marley lessons as instrumental in his life
    go on
    Ari: find me something on the internet…
    (and take your time)….
    that is only on the internet
    that cant be traced back
    to its real life analog
    equivalent
    me: So cities on Second life don’t count?
    9:40 PM What will that prove?
    Just curious?
    Will it than be real?
    Ari: i dont know what it will prove…
    9:41 PM me: Is that the point, that everything online is a virtual representation of real life because we can’t touch it?
    Ari: but maybe it will help us understand the diff…if there is a diff…between real and virtual
    concrete v abstract
    (maybe, jabiz)
    i dont know
    me: I think the fact that it can all be traced back to something analouge is what makes it real.
    Ari: ….yes…that is tru!
    me: I have one more thing to say and let’s end it tonight.
    Ari: but if the analog is the “test” of authenticity
    9:42 PM then…youve just proved my point
    me: how so?
    Ari: that the analog is real.
    and the net is a simulation, virtual representation
    of the analog
    9:43 PM me: The analog is only physical, something like idea need not be physical to be real.
    This is a great chat, but we are going in circles I think.
    Ari: whats the last thing
    me: I wish we could be sitting on a beach in Thailand looking at the real stars talking about this as the real ocean laps the real sand

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