31 March 2008

The Authority of Bytes and Pixels

I was only born in 1982, but I am still just barely old enough that I don't take things like the internet, CD's, and cell phones for granted. I grew up with a black and white television and a rotary telephone in the house (and also with two harpsichords and no pianos, but that's another story entirely). To this day, I take a certain perverse pleasure in being able to listen to myself on CD, watch myself on VHS or DVD, and not least of all to see my words all lit up on an official-looking website like this one, as if I am some eminent writer. The reason for this is that I remember when not just anyone could see their work lit up on a screen, or hear their music played back by a computer notation program, or burn a CD of themselves for a friend, etc. etc. At first, it just wasn't possible; then it was too expensive; today, it's almost commonplace.

Specifically with regard to the internet, I think it is amazing how much venom is spewed over the fact that a kid born today will never have known a world without such modern technology, and particularly over the worry that this kid will never be able to tell the difference between an authoritative source and a phony one. Might I submit that it is, in fact, those of us who actually remember a time when all of these bytes and pixels were exclusively reserved for raging celebrities who are the problem? We are the ones who are most easily seduced into equating packaging with authority because for us, that used to be a pretty reliable way of judging sources. If that is no longer the case (and we all know it's not), then we are the one's who have a problem, not successive generations who will not know any other way.

Rather than fear the day when there are no people left on the planet who were alive before the internet existed, I would posit that once we arrive at that stage, the populace will, for that very reason, be much more adept than it is today at judging authority among various internet sources, and that perhaps only then can the internet come closer to fulfilling its potential as a constructive, utilitarian resource rather than a capricious waste of time and electricity.

1 comment:

Nick Zielinski said...

You can get news and information on this thing?

I thought it was just for porn.