The Internet and its Promises

Andrew Conti Artist Painting

There are certain bookstores in New York and Tokyo, where I encountered new information in the context of my body and the walking adventures I undertook.

Amidst murmurs and  interruptions I came face to face with new  ideas and concepts along with the physical and social navigation of space. I could, I felt, spend an afternoon in these spaces and be totally alight with thought as well as becoming up-to-date with what was happening and interesting in the larger world.

I was not on my own in these instances, and that reflected on how I looked at and absorbed the new. I could consume not only the ideas, but also the environment of those around me and all of their interests. Distracted, but connected.

In my absorption with ideas on the internet, I worry that I am the opposite – connected, but distracted.

It is pretty remarkable how much thought gets in the doors here at our little rural home. Constant connections to a larger, much larger, world of the internet. My wife and I seem always to be uncovering new ideas and concepts – pulling these thing and their creators into our lives. This is the promise of the internet as we know it, I guess. A living magazine of unmeasurable size from which we clip and graft, fashioning our selves in the present.

Our browser windows are ever open in a mix of reverence and anxiety. The interesting image/article/etc.  is encountered in an unchanging and ever familiar context – that is the moment of the screen. We are either at our desks or lounged somewhere in a reading position, primed for absorption, but not for experience. I collect ideas like I once collected comics and stickers as a child. Waiting for those ideas to arrive in sealed packs from my RSS feeder, opening and mentally sorting them by relevancy in my more languor moments.

I often think this is lovely in its way, but nagging around me is a sense that an essential part of the experience is lost.

It isn’t a simple need for better book shops and a dismissal of Amazon/ from my life. What I miss is the physicality and spatial components of encounters with new information.

I wonder if there are certain thoughts that cannot be had without being in an environment of thought. We might need the city to be able to think, we might need our bodies to move to absorb the new, and we might need to be surrounded with disruptions and buzz to find clarity.