Monday, February 18, 2013

Why has the Internet gotten so boring?

When I was in art school in the 90s, I half-seriously proposed carving websites in stone and then burying them, since I recognized then that the early internet would be lost.  Like most things I said in classes back then, I was laughed at but I had a point that has since been validated. 

My prediction was correct but for the wrong reasons -- I was sure that the design of websites would change in unpredictable ways, but I didn't predict that the way websites would be consumed would change from desktop computers to...phones and tablets.  Or that this switch to phones and tablets would change the pace with which people consumed content.  Or that phones and tablets would turn people into passive consumers of the internet rather than active participants in it (other than their personal profiles, of course). 



Luckily, www.archive.org started crawling the web sometime in the late 90s and has partially saved many of the old websites.  Many of the images are gone, and you can't click on .wav files or quicktime movies.  But the sense of the early web's lawlessness is there, especially that of this particular specimen, the (former) home of the imaginary Orgasmonaut Band:


http://web.archive.org/web/19991009022104/http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Studio/1394/main.html


This sort of intensely creative thing (at least on this scale) doesn't happen anymore.  I mean, this guy - whoever he was - spent a lot of time putting this website together.  


But the other thing I'm sensing lately is that the internet is "flattening" all media.  What I mean is a photograph is the same as a painting is the same as a podcast is the same as a video.  It's all looks and sounds and feels the same now, which means it all means the same thing.  





Given these changes, I feel discouraged from creating a traditional website and so should you.  The smarter move now seems to be to create something in a traditional form, then invite others digitize it (through photos or their own commentary), or at the very least link to it.  A shared link acts as a referral, rather than the modern-day equivalent of the email blast, which is the first-person Facebook or Twitter post.  And like the email blasts of old, people are getting so many social media posts now they can't possibly pay close attention to many of them.   


I mean, just imagine here in 2013 how many Twitter retweets I'd be getting if I was digging up stone tablets with early Geocities websites carved on them.  Instead I'm just writing this blog post that'll maybe get 100 views.  

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1 comment:

  1. It's a shame how so much of the content on the internet has shifted from dedicated websites and forums to places like Facebook, Twitter, etc. On the other hand, it's great that more people are participating; the average person probably wouldn't start a website about their hobby but might make a Facebook post about it. I guess the most disturbing thing is that so many people think that Google or Facebook "is" the Internet -- as in, people that literally don't know how to get to websites without typing the name of the website into Google first.

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