Monday, March 18, 2013

Internet, Transparency, Transiency and the Shadow

This profound painting, The Geology of Time, by Susan Bostrom Wong, opened the article 'Destruction of the Image and the Worship of Transiency', in The Jung Journal: Psyche and Culture.

The Internet is a dramatic manifestation of the rapid and enormous changes that humankind is experiencing in the world of today (or tomorrow, before the sentence is finished).

It is still in its very early stages, but who can imagine that less than two decades ago, practically no one had heard about that reality, however virtual, of our world.

In 2006, 18% of the world’s population had already access to the World Wide Web. Within five years it had doubled, reaching 35%.

If today there are private companies the size of countries, there are phenomena, such as Google and Facebook, that have become entire continents, in that alternative world in which we live, called the Internet.

While in many ways the expansion of the internet seems erratic, chaotic and associative, it may well be a self-regulating system, moving towards increasing similarity with what we still might call “the real world”:

The future of the Internet technological revolution will continue to be made in man's image.

Three dimensional graphics will become more sophisticated, and virtual reality interfaces such as viewers and tactile feedback systems will become more realistic. The technology will be applied to innovative ways to navigate the Internet's information universe, for hyper-realistic gaming, and for group communications. There will come a day when you will be able to have dinner with a group of friends each in a different city, almost as though you were in the same room, although you will all have to bring your own food.

Virtual reality applications will not only better and better reflect the natural world, they will also have the fluidity, flexibility, and speed of the digital world, layered on the Internet, and so will be used to create apparently magical environments of types we can only now begin to imagine. These increasingly sophisticated virtual experiences will continue to change how we understand the nature of reality, experience, art, and human relations.

Retrieved from The Future of the Internet

The assets, advances and advantages of the Internet are innumerable. Yet, everything has its shadow(s). Often the shadows that we have ignored and supposedly left behind, jump up right in front of us and obstruct our free forward movement; take for example how environmentalists of the time welcomed the automobile,
In cities and towns the noise and clatter of the streets will be reduced, priceless boon to the tired nerves of this overwrought generation. … On sanitary grounds too the banishing of horses from our city streets will be a blessing. Streets will be cleaner, jams and blockages less likely to occur and accidents less frequent, for the horse is not so manageable as a mechanical vehicle.[1]

While the car has become a crucial means of transportation in our world, we may now, a hundred years later, be more aware of its disadvantages; more than a million people are killed around the world in road accidents, and an estimated 50 million wounded per year (World Health Organization).

The speed with which we access information impedes the ability to digest it; digestion is needed to turn information into knowledge, knowledge into understanding, and understanding into wisdom.

Much of what takes place on the Internet becomes transient – one website leads to the next, as we swiftly move on to something else that attracts our attention.

The Internet enables greater transparency, which often is desirable. But with transparency comes a certain loss of privacy, when everything can be forwarded and mass-distributed with great ease, sometimes intentionally, sometimes provocatively, and occasionally by mistake.

One recent example is an email, by mistake circulated to the students, compiled by one of the teachers at a High School in Kfar Saba, in which one student is described as “selfish,” another as “not particularly bright,” and another as “a big baby.”

In this case, what pertains to simple gossip, unworthy of being put on paper, was not only printed, thus becoming ‘a document,’ but distributed to all students, making us wonder what really keeps these teachers occupied; clearly not valuable education. Gossip – a word which interestingly comes from ‘God-siblings’ – sometimes makes aspects of everyday a bit juicier, shouldn’t be taken seriously. It shouldn’t become a document, and it shouldn’t become public. The shadow of gossip should be relegated to the secrecy of dark corners of dining-hall tables or coffee-shop chatter. But now, with the ease of pushing buttons, shadows are easily thrown out right there in front of us, penetrating the weakening filters of the ego and ego-judgment, fusing with the face of our personae.

Read more, e.g. Self, Meaning & the Transient Personality, Recollection and recollectivization, Destruction of the Image and the Worship of Transiency here.

Technology is not only here to stay, but we would rather not do without it. However, rather than a future in which man and machine struggle against each other, with a doubtful outcome, modern technology can be combined with the mystery of life and the magic of childhood, as for instance in Gal Sasson's Make-a-Play, a finalist in the Engadget Insert Coin Competition.

[1] Appeared in Horseless Age, “a popular magazine for automobile enthusiasts” published between 1895 and 1918; from Ann Norton Greene, “Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America.”

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