World Without Web

The internet got turned off in the flat today. I must have stared disbelievingly at the dead eyed router for a good hour hoping something would flicker into life – some how, some way. But there was nothing. Just quiet.

I imagine this is how the start of the zombie apocalypse will feel.

To make sure this wasn’t actually THE zombie apocalypse and to score some free wifi I went for a walk.

After a few curt rebuffs from teasingly ‘unlocked’ hotspots I found solace in the fatty arms of KFC. I perched on a seat outside, made look like I was waiting for someone and hit connect. Fifteen minutes free. Go.

Having finite access to the web is something I’m really not used to. As I clicked on go and the timer began a strange panic set in – what do I check first? Emails? Probably best, but then writing a reply will take too long and I won’t check anything else – what about my lolcatz? Maybe Facebook or Twitter? It’ll take me 15minutes just to scroll through everything I missed…and what about links? I can’t read them now. No time. I can’t save for later. Maybe I’ll never have access ever again. Shit. 12 minutes. Click something!

I have got so used to having ‘always on’ web access that I don’t know how to prioritise any more. I can’t recall how I used to use the web when I only had 60 minutes a month dial up. I guess it was like old movies – a lot more words and a lot less jump cuts.

To be honest I didn’t freak out about missing status updates or tweets so much – not getting email was inconvenient but not life threatening.

Offline and dumb
What I found I missed most was access to instant information. There were several times during the day when I would think about something and instinctively go to look it up online. It was really random curiosities that just floated through my head for whatever reason – like when I was having lunch I wondered how many different types of pears are there? Normally I would look online to find out more and scratch my curious itch. The web is accessible intelligence. With less access I suddenly felt a lot more stupid.

There’s a book by some guy that was on a blog somewhere that talked about this in great detail – (if I had web access I would add the link and be able to quote it fully). The author describes how the internet The internet got turned off in the flat today. I must have stared disbelievingly at the dead eyed router for a good hour hoping something would flicker into life – some how, some way. But there was nothing. Just quiet.

I imagine this is how the start of the zombie apocalypse will feel.

To make sure this wasn’t actually THE zombie apocalypse and to score some free wifi I went for a walk.

After a few curt rebuffs from teasingly ‘unlocked’ hotspots I found solace in the fatty arms of KFC. I perched on a seat outside, made look like I was waiting for someone and hit connect. Fifteen minutes free. Go.

Having finite access to the web is something I’m really not used to. As I clicked on go and the timer began a strange panic set in – what do I check first? Emails? Probably best but then writing a reply will take too long and I won’t check anything else -what about my lolcatz? Maybe Facebook or Twitter? It’ll take me 15minutes just to scroll through everything…and what about links? I can’t read them now. No time. I can’t save for later. Maybe I’ll never have access ever again. Shit. 12 minutes. Click something!

I have got so used to always on web access I don’t know how to prioritise any more. I can’t recall how I used to use the web when I only had 60minutes a month dial up. I guess it was like old movies – a lot more words and a lot less jump cuts.

To be honest I didn’t freak out about missing status updates or tweets so much – not getting email was inconvenient but not life threatening.

Offline and dumb
What I found I missed most was access to instant information. There were several times during the day when I would think about something and instinctively go to look it up or find the reference online. It was really random curiosities that just floated through my head for whatever reason – like when I was having lunch I wondered what different types of pears are there? Normally I would look online to find out more and scratch my curious itch. I enjoy finding out about stuff and the web is accessible intelligence. Being disconnected I suddenly felt a lot more stupid.

There’s a book by some guy that was on a blog somewhere that talked about this in great detail – (if I had web access I would add the link and be able to quote it fully). The author describes how the internet is helping make us smarter by giving us instant access to knowledge and how it is solving the age old problem of ‘tip of the tongue’ syndrome – that thing where you know something but can’t quite recall the details. Now, as long as you know how to look you can find the thing – instantly. Until you don’t have access of course. (Who has, who doesn’t have and who controls access is a whole other can of worms though)

So, anyway I felt less smart and less connected, not so much to friends but to knowledge. Normally if something needs fixing or sorting my good pal Google steps in and takes over. Now I only had me and the limited resources inside my head. What if I suddenly needed to know the different kinds of edible mushroom or how to build a tazer, or who were the founding members of the Moody Blues? I would be stuffed … and it could end badly. Google normally has my back. Now I don’t even know what the Latin word for back is!

In that same blog that I can’t remember Susan Sontag talks about how knowledge and wisdom has become commodified as easily digested sound bites that give us the impression of knowing without having to actually understand anything. This is the flipside to the always on web. What use is being smart when your connected when you’re dumb without it.

It’s not like the internet invented this issue – books and libraries democratised knowledge long ago but the scale and speed is what makes it seamless in our thinking now and makes the ‘smart illusion’ more and more real.

It’s more useful in many ways but more dangerous if we believe it to be wholly true.

So, anyway nothing catastrophic happened and it’s good to remember you’re not as smart as you think. It wasn’t the start of the zombie apocalypse – but it did make me realise without the web I will be pretty useless when it does begin. helping make us smarter by giving us instant access to knowledge and how it is solving the age old problem of ‘tip of the tongue’ syndrome – that thing where you know something but can’t quite recall the details. Now, as long as you know how to look you can find the thing – instantly. Until you don’t have access of course. (Who has, who doesn’t have and who controls access is a whole other can of worms though)

Without the web I felt less smart and cut off, not from friends but from knowledge.

Normally, if something needs fixing or sorting my good pal Google steps in and takes over. Now I only had me and the limited resources inside my own head. What if I suddenly needed to know the different kinds of edible mushroom or how to build a lazer, or who were the founding members of the Moody Blues? I would be stuffed … and it could end badly. Google normally has my back. Now I don’t even know what the Latin word for back is!

In that same blog that I can’t remember Susan Sontag talks about how knowledge and wisdom has become commodified as simplified sound bites that give the impression of knowing without having to actually understand anything. This is the flipside to the always on web. What use is being smart connected when you’re dumb offline.

To be fair it’s not like the internet invented this issue – books and libraries put knowledge on tap long ago. But there was still a delay or a limit. You had to go to the library or have the right book. The scale and speed now makes it almost seamless and makes the ‘smart illusion’ seem more and more real.

However useful it may be, I think it’s important we don’t completely fall for the technological slight of hand. Else we run the risk of outsourcing our memories completely and ultimately we will end up forgetting everything.

So, anyway nothing catastrophic happened and it’s good to remember you’re not as smart as you think you are sometimes. It wasn’t the start of the zombie apocalypse – but it did make me realise without the web I will be pretty useless when it does begin.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. Cliff – no one EVER needs to know who were the founding members of the Moody Blues. In fact, I suspect those responsible are probably in denial…..

Willy Fog conmochila

La aventura está a punto de comenzar

partialinsight

Stroke and visual impairment

The Lone Frontman

"A less elegant weapon for a less civilized age."

%d bloggers like this: