May 17, 2012

Year 42 A.I. (After Internet)

1969 was a pretty banner year. Man stepped on the moon; the Beatles gave their final public performance; the Haunted Mansion opened its doors in Disneyland... and the first nodes of the creature which would one day become the Internet were launched.

Considering how much has changed on the Intranet landscape just over the past 10 years, it's hard to even remember what life was like back in the data-dark ages. In the middle of reading a bit on twitter this morning, it struck me that there are a few things that just will no longer be the way it used to be. It's like asking kids these days what a specific brand of ink pen has to do with cassette tapes.

Like, having lived in that particular generation of time, I get the association - but people growing up with CDs or MP3s.... it's just not a connection. Not a big deal, sure, but it's a common frame of reference that is essentially gone forever. Feel free to shed a tear. Or not. Your choice.

The Internet has accomplished a wide variety of disassociations - not just the lack of a need to relate certain elements, but the awareness that they were ever a thing at all.

For example:

1) Talking behind someone's back - thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Podcasts, emails, voicemails, and so forth - is essentially a dead art form. Whatever you say/tweet/post/text - is almost certainly guaranteed to get back to the subject of your comment. What surprises me about this, however, is the fact that people continue to do it. I mean, really? Talking smack about someone and yet expect them NOT to find out? I've decided to try and live my life as if it were the subject of a Reality TV show. Now, if I go into the "confessional booth" and talk about how so and so is a total douchebag....I have to be prepared for them to a) find out; and b) confront me about it.

2) Lone gunmen - Remember those "crazy" people you used to see on street corners, holding up the "The End Is Near" signs? Notice how we don't see those anymore? They don't need street corners anymore - - they can wax conspiracy theory from the privacy of their own homes. The world is their street corner, now. And what's more, we see now that no matter how wackadoo a person's pretenses might be, there's going to be at least one more person out there holding up a cigarette lighter and screaming for an encore. I think Andy Warhol was only partly right - - except the world doesn't just get fifteen minutes of fame anymore. Now, everyone gets an audience.

3) Encyclopedias - If you haven't heard, the Encyclopaedia Britannica has announced the end of their print run - - due mostly, I'm certain, to the prevalence of sites like Wikipedia. (author's note: I just pulled up the link there and felt suddenly really cruel. Odd.) I remember one time in school having to go do a report on something, and our class went to the school library, and I was one of the last people into the room and BAM. No encyclopedias - all the other kids had grabbed pretty much everything but Q and Z. It sucked. I had to actually look up OTHER BOOKS to get information. Oh, the humanity! But now, I've got Wikipedia (or a similar variant) on my phone, my Kindle, and as a favorite on my laptop. I use IMDB whenever we're watching a show and have one of those "who is that? They look soooo familiar!" moments. When I'm in the middle of working on a new book and need to know what the names of the masts are in a british sailing vessel, I can find it in SECONDS, and get right back into the pace of writing without having to stop the process. I can search for character reference pictures, costumes, locations, everything, and I can do it so quickly that I don't need to swap out the hemispheres of my brain in order to do it.

4) Patience: - Here's a pretty simple example - I got a Kindle Fire (blatant product placement) for Christmas last year, and the first book I downloaded was The Hunger Games. A lot of people had commented on the tone comparisons between the Suzanne Collins trilogy and my own YA Steampunk books, so since I was finally wrapping the last of my series, I felt comfortable breaking down and checking it out myself. I was perhaps 3 chapters into the Hunger Games and I knew I would love the series, so I clicked back onto the Amazon app on the Kindle and ordered them as well. They were both on my Kindle before I'd finished the next page of the book. That's just a wonderful thing. It's a bit dangerous for an impulse shopper like I often am, but it's also fantastic. I don't hate stores - I enjoy them, honestly (though, salesmen - - please, please please can you stop walking up to me and asking me if you can help me? If I need help, I'll come find you, I promise!) - - but sometimes, I'd rather not make the drive just for one thing. And sometimes, I want it now. Or, rather, tomorrow, via overnight shipping.

What about you? What things have you seen get run over by the progress of the Internet?

Let me know - let's raise a glass in honor of these fallen concepts.

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