07.05.12

Um, so what is the Internet anyway?

It doesn't hurt to take a step back and re-evaluate our assumptions every once in a while. In his article today at the Verge, Paul Miller ponders the eternal mystery, "What is the Internet?"

Since I don't "use the internet," according to my dial-up definition, I'm frequently longing for my friends to "disconnect" from it and spend more time with me throwing frisbees — because what could possibly as important on this ephemeral internet that has them so wrapt? But if they "disconnected," what would we talk about? Probably about someone who just friended them on Facebook, or this great new idea for a website they had, or this well-reviewed restaurant — "wait a minute, let me look it up" — that we should hit up later. And at that restaurant we'd eat food that a chef probably emailed to another chef, and then pay with internet-verified credit cards, and then take cabs home with embedded screens flush with internet-obtained or distributed information. Or go see a movie in theaters that was delivered in digital form over the internet. And then we'd go home and listen to music we bought on iTunes at some point, or that was originated by band members who met on Craigslist.

Miller raises some interesting points but ultimately, with a degree of resignation, reaffirms what we already know to be true—the Internet is everywhere. It's hard not to write nostalgically these days, but others like Nathan Jurgenson contend that this romantic desire to be "disconnected" is all-too-common and reflects something more worrisome: a sequestering of reality into the "offline" or, as Miller puts it, the "meatspace." Perhaps the old epistemological question of "what is reality?" deserves our renewed attention.