Internet connectivity seemed so far away
Now it's always on immediate-lay
Oh I believe in yesterday
Alex Pang waxes nostalgic for the old gateway to Cyberspace. He opines:
In short, going online had the feeling of travel: it was strenuous and time-consuming. Indeed, in 1996 law professors David Johnson and David Post argued that since going online-- dialing up an ISP, and entering a username and password-- was the equivalent of going through customs, and thus that "[c]rossing into Cyberspace is a meaningful act that would make application of a distinct 'law of Cyberspace' fair to those who pass over the electronic boundary."
Have I just romanticized the experience of going online in the early, heady days of the Web? Am I oversensitive? Or did the difficulty of getting online contribute to a sense that you were going somewhere, that cyberspace was separate from ordinary life?
I have commented on this before in previous posts. But, yes, the Internet used to feel like going someplace and the trip there had something to do with it.
Would Paris be as special if we had Star-Trek style transporters? Except for Parisians, you need to travel to get there.
Perhaps more importantly, would Paris retain its uniqueness if we had no barrier for entry? Would culture disappear?
The always-on connection is an amazing boost to productivity and collaboration. Few of us would willingly go back to our TRS-80s and our 300 baud modems - watching the green text scroll by at half reading speed.
In those days, there were enclaves of the early early adopters. And that had a different feel than today where web presence is assumed. "They don't even have their own web site?" Is very common today.
When you assume something will be there, it is rarely exciting to actually find it there.
I think what some of us hunger for from "the early days" is a combination of a sense of counter-cultureness and a sense of specific community. The "trip" of the modem helped punctuate this.
However, now what we have is a platform to create other unique locations. But here is my fear: our attention span is massively short.
Instead of binge and purge, our attention cycles are on a hype and discard schedule. This, more than any other thing, is likely what causes us to wax nostalgic about the old days. So, truthfully, there are very few things that come up that we use enough to really feel a part of them.
We felt like we were a part of Cyberspace because from 1985 to 1992 it didn't change at all. It was all BBSs. Then we had the neo-natal web - which we still viewed with text browsers. After that, it was a rocketship of innovation. Exciting, bewildering, and possibly alienating.
The concept of Cyberspace was relatively static. Perhaps this is another reason why the term is outmoded. Perhaps today we are in Hyperspace.
Stay tuned next for how I think this ties into Web 2.0.