Capturing Culture in the Meta-Book

“Knowledge is expanding, but human life remains too short” – Janet H. Murray

Too short for what?  Too short to gain a full understanding of the knowledge which we now have access to.  Perhaps we lack a sufficient amount of time on this earth to answer all the questions that we have about said earth.  Perhaps with this overload of “Knowledge” we need…

“A new meta-book, a navigable collection of books that will carry us gracefully to the next level of information control and systematic thought, just as the invention of print did 500 years ago” – Murray

And as this meta-book is being created it is very possible that those concerned with such technology use an evolution metaphor as a way of expressing their …

“Awe at the magnitude of the shift, a way of sharing the shiver of terror at the unfamiliar rush of mind-power that makes us wonder if we might be capable of outthinking our very humanity.” – Murray

The thought that a mind can become so empowered by new media that it can begin “outthinking our humanity” is troubling.  It makes you wonder if aspects of that outthought humanity might begin to get lost in the “rush” of things.  What aspects might those be and will future generations wish they could recapture them or will they simply be ignorant of what once was as…

“Institutions of modern culture that are responsible for selecting what makes it into the canon of our cultural memory and what is left behind” – Manovich

…decide what aspects of humanity they want to capture in the meta-book and which ones are no longer significant enough to bother with.  I mean it has been said by Manovich that they “are always behind the times” and perhaps trying in vain to catch-up.

Take the Long View

“The internet has quietly infiltrated our lives, and yet we seem to be remarkably unreflective about it.”

The combination of the auxiliary verb “has” and the past participle “infiltrated” combine in this quote to indicate an action “that started in the past and is (or may be) still going on”.  We are in the middle of an infiltration and transformation without the wonderful gift of hindsight.  John Naughton presents the reader with a Gedankenexperiment in an article of his that compares the adoption of the internet to the adoption of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in 1455.  His experiment asks everyday citizens of that period to make predictions about the potential impact of the invention of movable type and his conclusion is that “There is no way that anyone in 1472, in Mainz, could have known how profound its impact would be.”

I wonder how the majority of Mainz residents felt about the printing press as it was transforming their world.  Did they embrace the new technology?  Did it scare them?  Perhaps they simply accepted it?  A few disgruntled accounts of its detrimental effects on society have survived but it is hard to guess at the general populace’s opinion of the technology.  Naughton states that we are currently unreflective about the period of change we are currently traveling through.  Is it because conclusions about its impact cannot be made?  Or is there value in questioning the potential impacts of a technology before fully embracing it and encouraging its transformation from a technology into something as “trivial and plentiful as…grains of sand”.  The transformative technology we are embracing is becoming common place.  I am interested in exploring how these new grains of sand will change what it means to take a walk on the beach.  I also want to know if we will miss anything as the waves slowly was the older grains away?

The Time in the Day

Gardner Campbell spoke of a revolution in which we are currently entangled.  This revolution is happening as we explore the capabilities of this creature we have named the internet.  Through this tool we are uncovering a previously unknown capacity for expressive capability.  As was brought up in our first session together Clay Shirky shares this view and has been quoted as saying “The moment we are living through is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history”

This increase in expressive capability has quickly infiltrated almost every aspect of our daily lives.  Yet we as a society, perhaps, are still unaware of the full impact that this transformation will have.  Ignoring the positive effects of this, “time saving”, “educational”, and “connective” technology, to name a few examples, is impossible.   Equally ludicrous would be pretending that this trend is going to slow down let alone reverse, by any extension of the word.  The time we find ourselves in is a fascinating one where at the press of a button I can bring the face of a friend or family member into “my reality” from anywhere in the world.

In response to an internal desire to better understand my thoughts and emotions surrounding this inevitable transformation coupled with the gentle prodding of a colleague or two I am now committed to investing some of my Time each day to a class on Cognition, Learning, and the Internet.  I am excited to learn from everyone in the class.  I am eager to study and discuss stories from when the Internet was still an infant.  And I am enthusiastic about having my boundaries pushed a bit in a field I have always hesitated to embrace.

We all have the same amount of Time in the Day and it is our choice on how we spend it.  I decided to use a bit of that Time to explore this new medium for Expressive Capability.  I do this with a bit of hesitation for it was mentioned in class that “By increasing Expressive Capability you decrease the ability to make use of that ability”.  Does that translate to a larger chunk of our Time spent trying to make use of the mediums for expression?  And in the digital world where exploring Expressive capability is often done sitting in front of a screen I wonder at what we have given up in order to express ourselves?

In an attempt to manage accounts on Facebook, Linked-in, Google+, Twitter, Email, Delicious, and Vimeo while keeping up with my text messages and phone calls  I spend more time in front of the screen than I did five years ago.  I wonder at what I did before I had all of this?  Do you remember a time before connectivity? And I want to know if anyone shares my occasionally strong urges to disconnect completely?

The Time in the Day is fixed a good question might be how conscience are you of how you spend it?