Friday, May 13, 2011

Read This Now - The Internets Are Here

This is a late breaking Read This Now, a Read This Now If You Haven't Already if you will.  I'm catching up on New Yorker's from the spring so there may be a few more of these in store as well.

Cutting the chatter though, if you didn't get a chance to read Adam Gopnik's take on the Internets and the range of books and prognosticators take's on whether they make life better or worse in the Anniversary Issue way back in February you should take some time to do so.

He breaks them out into three categories; the Never-Betters (the internets herald a new utopian age), the Better-Nevers (the internets are destroying civilization as we know it), and the Ever-Wasers (there's always something like the internets happening).  Among the most interesting tidbits were the comparisons to other new pieces of technology and the reactions that they spawned before becoming accepted pieces of everyday life.

The odd thing is that this complaint, though deeply felt by our contemporary Better-Nevers, is identical to Baudelaire’s perception about modern Paris in 1855, or Walter Benjamin’s about Berlin in 1930, or Marshall McLuhan’s in the face of three-channel television (and Canadian television, at that) in 1965. When department stores had Christmas windows with clockwork puppets, the world was going to pieces; when the city streets were filled with horse-drawn carriages running by bright-colored posters, you could no longer tell the real from the simulated; when people were listening to shellac 78s and looking at color newspaper supplements, the world had become a kaleidoscope of disassociated imagery; and when the broadcast air was filled with droning black-and-white images of men in suits reading news, all of life had become indistinguishable from your fantasies of it. It was Marx, not Steve Jobs, who said that the character of modern life is that everything falls apart.
Be sure to read the whole thing, and maybe even pick up a couple of the books he mentions.  There are also a number of multi-media tie-ins to the piece most of which you can find here.

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