Believing, Forgetting, and Accepting
At this point I don’t think any of you would be taxed to believe that I make it a habit of reading several serious conspiracy theory blogs, and that I post on many of their affiliated message boards. I will often find myself several pages into a thread about, say…satanic ritual abuse (or H.A.A.R.P., or reptoids, or the illuminati), rapt with conviction. But every time I have the same moment where I realize that none of this is substantiated, and yet I’m so compelled to believe it.
Often I’ll be moving extremely fast through a series of hyperlinks, and get the sensation of physically traveling very fast. But time and again I find myself in the same physical space, at my desk, or in a chair. This occurs more bluntly in online game’s with complex GUIs, but the sensation seems ruined by the literalness.
Similarly I’ll have countless tabs and windows open, and text or image pattern location software open checking and cross referencing page after page after page against each other and what were at one point flat pages of text now appear to me as a great grid of information.
Now, it would hardly be difficult to turn this into a discussion about honesty, truth, and how easily humans can convince themselves to feel a certain way, but I’d rather talk about why certain, often improbable sensations can seem so believable at times on the internet. What criteria do you consider when assessing someone’s image, “value”, and believability in online contexts? How do certain aspects of someone translate into the online world, out of a social networking context (which is all we can seem to talk about sometimes)? How is it that flat panes can become rich landscapes. Or, more thing to ponder is how we relate to the web as a whole, actual space, realized as a spatial, information rich, “world”.
More and more I see people submitting to what I like to call the “soft web”, that is, sites like digg, facebook, and wikipedia that aggregate, distribute, and democratize information. This is in contrast to the “hard web” that I grew up with and remains my stomping grounds; personal sites, minor message boards, information depositories. Are we quickly forgetting the hard web, where things are more nebulous but the information more diverse, in favor of a more democratized and smoothed over internet? What are we losing by doing this? What are we gaining?
What I’m trying to convey is that people discuss, to great lengths the way in which we realize ourselves on the internet. But again and again the conversations fall to myspace or facebook. I find this particularly dissatisfying because, as I see it, those technologies only cover a fraction of the available means of expression and feelings available on the internet. But what it really comes down to is the question of what the internet really is. obviously its different for everybody, but is it a database, a narrative, or a realized space? I think it is none of those specifically, but each are equally important. For the internet to be fully realized, I think it is up to the individuals who use it to embrace a multi-faceted existence on it. Myspace and facebook are obviously narratives, the great repositories of raw information are not lacking, and to an extent technologies like Second Life are providing a spatial quality to it all (although I think its metaphor is a bit thin), what is lacking is an understanding of how these three qualities work together to fill the virtual landscape. And the ultimate question, is it another world, or an extension of our own?