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)