The 2-Billion-Eyed Intermedia  

Posted by Big Gav in

Kevein Kelly is one of the people to answer this years Edge question, which asked "How has the internet changed the way you think?" - The 2-Billion-Eyed Intermedia. He actually wrote a response, as opposed to just searching Google and linking to something that sounded cool...

To a first approximation the Internet is words on a screen — Google, papers, blogs. But this first glance ignores the vastly larger underbelly of the Internet — moving images on a screen. People (and not just young kids) no longer go to books and text first. If people have a question they (myself included) head first for YouTube. For fun we go to online massive games, or catch streaming movies, including factual videos (documentaries are in a renaissance). New visual media are stampeding onto the Nets. This is where the Internet's center of attention lies, not in text alone. Because of online fans, and streaming on demand, and rewinding at will, and all the other liquid abilities of the Internet, directors started creating movies that were more than 100 hours long.

These vast epics like Lost and The Wire had multiple interweaving plot lines, multiple protagonists, an incredible depth of characters and demanded sustained attention that was not only beyond previous TV and 90-minute movies, but would have shocked Dickens and other novelists of yore. They would marvel: "You mean they could follow all that, and then want more? Over how many years?" I would never have believed myself capable of enjoying such complicated stories, or caring about them to put in the time. My attention has grown. In a similar way the depth, complexity and demands of games can equal these marathon movies, or any great book.

But the most important way the Internet has changed the direction of my attention, and thus my thinking, is that it has become one thing. It may look like I am spending endless nano-seconds on a series of tweets, and endless microseconds surfing between Web pages, or wandering between channels, and hovering only mere minutes on one book snippet after another; but in reality I am spending 10 hours a day paying attention to the Internet. I return to it after a few minutes, day after day, with essentially my full-time attention. As do you.

We are developing an intense, sustained conversation with this large thing. The fact that it is made up of a million loosely connected pieces is distracting us. The producers of Websites, and the hordes of commenters online, and the movie moguls reluctantly letting us stream their movies, don't believe they are mere pixels in a big global show, but they are. It is one thing now, an intermedia with 2 billion screens peering into it. The whole ball of connections — including all its books, all its pages, all its tweets, all its movies, all its games, all its posts, all its streams — is like one vast global book (or movie, etc.), and we are only beginning to learn how to read it.

Knowing that this large thing is there, and that I am in constant communication with it, has changed how I think.


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