(three weeks without Google)
“How many slums will we bulldoze to build the Information Superhighway?” Kivistik said. […] “How many on-ramps will connect the world’s ghettos to the Information Superhighway.?”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
The Internet as data highway – Daten-Autobahn; from the beginning this metaphor was smiled at contemptibly. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl rings in our ears and Al Gore is is unbearable self-righteousness.
Just as Randy Waterhouse, the protagonist of Neal Stephenson’s great novel Crypotnomicon gets outraged on the sociologist Dr. Kivistik – apparently completely untouched by technology – spoiling his beautiful Internet by drawing the parallel of an “Information Superhighway” to its end.
“I know that you’re not qualified to have an opinion about technical issues.” Waterhouse barks helplessly back; the sociologist – in his opinion lacking technological insights – should just not be able to give a qualified statement on the Internet!
But the picture of the highway is very well not that inappropriate for the Internet – however not so much, because data speeds along some backbones. It is rather that to build Highways you hat to plane away whole landscapes, and former remote spots suddenly become suburbs of the metropoles.
“The American way of life: […] What America has to offer: comfort, the best gadgets in the world, ready for use,[…]wherever they go, everything is turned into a highway with the world as a wall of billboards on either side […]“
Max Frisch puts in the mouth of his misanthrope Homo Faber. The highway as picture for waste land, the monotonous, flanked by advertising. The planing and homogenisation of once varied regions: for this analogy of highway and Internet there is likely much sympathy amongst the book sellers!
And while regions connected to the highway get homogenised into one big periphery, the remaining land moves suddenly far away. People without a car loose their connection – in the very sense of the word.
Not being active
The tendency to plane down, to grade, to misappropriate on the one hand, and marginalise on the other which comes with the Information Highway, has to get opposed by a framework that gives everybody the same chance to use the Net and at the same time preserves the multitude of opinions, and counteracts homogenisation by “affirmative action” on minorities.
In the meantime I have not been using search engines for three weeks. I am not strict with that – one week, or three, or for ever – this is likely the same. I have to date not reached a point at which it would be hard to get perfectly oriented in the Internet, and in the real world without Google.
In Google’s system, I see the Information Superhighway – for the better and the worse- come to perfection. Everything gets in reach, everything can become visible and accessible. Everything gets planed into a hit-list, changing the world into the wall of billboards as in Max Frisch’s quote above.
The other posts of my experiment “Without Google”:
and the beginning of the experiment: