Saturday 12 July 2008

Internet Eden

Its rare that in one weekend one reads several posts all of which raise interesting points that really deserve posts of their own.

Nunyaa's post of Yesterday raises points that I'd like to expand on at some point next week, but two excellent posts- one by Ian Appleby, one by X-dell, both raise good points.
I think so often when I read posts like these, they actually aid me to clarify my own perspective, in this case, to say exactly how we see blogging and the internet.

I've said many times, we're all beginers at this. But actually, I'm going to get all grandiose and use a better word. Pioneers.
We are part of building something that is going to change human existence forever.

And most people just don't get it. You hear things like 'Real Life is more important than blogging.'

So- your blog is a figment of my imagination, is it? I just dreamed it? In the case of the blogger in question, I wish I had.

It's people communicating. It's real. OK,we use pseudonyms, we hide portions of our lives, that's necessary for this particular aspect of the internet to work, but real people input the text, real people read it.

Now Ian's point about the media is a good one. Here we are all typing away and reading eachother's stuff, but we're not really reaching mass audiences. The MSM have that covered.
But of course, if you think about it, we don't NEED an MSM anymore. All we really need is News agencies, like Reuters. We don't NEED TV. Programme makers already put their stuff online.
The modern world could exist with all non-fact TV and film just being put straight online, and all News simply released in terse statements by Reuters, and we, the blogosphere, do the interpreting, commenting and diffusing.

So the blogosphere really does have the POTENTIAL to replace all existing Media. There are sound reasons why this won't happen, under the current system, because MSM is the primary mechanism of thought control, but that's the reason why so many of us- me included- are prepared to invest our own free time interpreting things our own way.

OK, many of you won't agree with the angle I put on things. Or the angles elsewhere. But read enough blogs you're more likely to get a true picture of things than if you rely on TV to tell you what to think.

You know that, I know that. The general public out there, don't.

And of course, unlike the MSM, it's a multi-way discussion. The story can be dissected further by other bloggers and linked. And debates can emerge in the comments sections.

What we are witnessing- and we don't yet see it- is the foundation of a central nervous system for the species.
Where any human being can instantly communicate with any other.

Do you realise, when we colonise Mars, we won't use radio communication- it takes too long. We'll keep in contact via the internet, because it takes place at the speed of light.

Initially, the inernet was the preserve largely of the socially inadequate and the deviants, but now we are finding that others are taking to it in droves, for differing reasons.
Because it is the mode of communication of the future, and its existence irrevocably changes the way we live at a deep level.

And how, is something we are just grasping.

I don't think we've reached internet adolescence yet, in fact quite often the way we're behaving here is like children.
Don't assume I'm saying that any of you are people who behave like children.

What I mean, is that children behave like children, because they haven't yet worked out how society works best.
We, here, we're like children with no parents. We haven't yet worked out how to work out ways to make this wonderful medium- and in many ways I think it is wonderful- work best.

So we run into it with the mesmerised awe of The Coral Island and it can turn into Lord of The Flies.
We've succeeded in creating a medium where finally, we have achieved that ancient dream of humankind, a medium where we can relate on terms of mind alone, and how do we treat it?

Look at the comments people leave in eachothers comments sections. Would you leave them in real life?
No. For two good reasons.
First, is a sad but true fact. In real life gut instinct tells us when we've overstepped the mark. Put bluntly, you don't behave in a manner that might get your nose smacked. Generally, it's socially inadequate male bloggers who like to do this. But not always. I'll put my hands up and admit I've got a temper on me, and I can over-react when provoked. And if the reaction was face to face it would probably result in a stand off, then a cooling down of tempers, and then some back slapping and a we'd buy eachother a pint. Here, these things just deteriorate into grudge match games of oneupmanship.
The removal of the underlying reality of five clenched fingers should be a positive, not a negative.

But second, and actually, I like to think, the more compelling reason, is the facelessness. You don't see the other person wince. You don't see the anguish in their eyes, the hurt at what's been said. You can sit there on the other side of your terminal and say to yourself 'Take that, f**ker' and feel proud of yourself. Because the avatar you're cyber-kicking, has no expression.

So this is one of the problems. Because this bickering, is done in a public medium. Is this how you want to be remembered by your descendants?

Really, people need to think before they leave a comment, anywhere 'Is this appropriate to say in public?'.

Like I say, we ARE all learning. But very often, I think- and that does go for myself too at times- there's too much falling out over petty trivia- or stuff that will seem petty in years to come, a bit like when children fight over who's going to sit by the popular girl or who hid whose marbles.

You can't expect the rules of normal three dimensional society to work here, and right now what we have is total anarchy. We need to get to grips with how we engage with eachother.

And now onto something in many ways more positive. But underpinned by pitfalls too. Many of them. And to those who were, up until early 2007, essentially internet virgins, this is a huge learning curve. But don't forget that everyone else is still on it. And no one went before to show us how it's done.

Not real? Then please tell me how people get so emoted. Of course it's real, real people, real emotions. I have posted on this before, but that was earlier in the learning process, so consider this the most recent set of conclusions. And certainly don't see this as a FINAL conclusion. Just the full update of what I've concluded over just over a year at this game.

The connections we form here ARE genuine, or can be, but what we don't yet quite understand, is WHAT they are.
I'm aware that there are people who come online, because they prefer to interact in this way. Now let's look at this objectively. This shows in itself, there is something different about it.
Yet someone once said to me, that people who devote large amounts of time to blogging, are by definition single, though not out of choice, and that if they find a partner, blogging tails off.


Maybe. One of the attractions for me, is that it actually fills in all the gaps when I'm NOT receiving stimulation from another source. It enables me to receive a continual flow of conversation, one way or another.
In other words, I probably spend less time at home than most people. But I spend most of that time online.

And my experience is these internet friendships are just as real, though very different, to ones in the flesh.
I was explaining to the Chimney Sweep recently why initially, conversing by Internet Messenger is strange. Hard to figure it. It takes a while to work out nuances. But in time, you learn to perceive, to read between the lines, to SENSE the other person. And to be able to communicate yourself, in a medium in which facial expression and body language are unavailable.

And though there are people I've never met, and never heard their voice, they're real to me. And friends too. Different type of friends to the ones I go drinking with, but friends nonetheless. It's just a type of friendship that, only having existed within human culture for a short space of time, we're still getting our heads round.

The dynamics of conversation are different. Its in the silences. Its when you see the typing stop. What DID they say, and then change? You can't do that in real life.
And the fact that often, you find the conversation fractures. While you were typing your response, they asked you a question.
And the fact that you're reading a blog at the same time. Or surfing YouTube. You couldn't do that with an RL conversation. And when you make a point, you can copy and paste a link in to show them what you mean. You can say 'But have you got this track?'
And play them it from YouTube. Or you can SHOW them the painting you mean.

The conversation is there, you can't miss bits by averting your attention for a second. And yet you still feel like its a real conversation. You pick up the nuances, if you know the person well, you can pick up their mood, its quite scary really. I've had people almost finish my sentences for me. Only the other day, I had someone tell me, before I said it, exactly what was on my mind. And it was something I'd have been surprised anyone would have picked up on.

These are people you talk to, and have conversations with, most days. More often than several of your real life friends.
Do we get the implications of this?

Because you DO know eachother. It's just a VERY different type of knowing. I think perhaps, we show the sides of ourselves we hide in 3D form, and vice versa.

Now let's look at what the ultimate benefit is to humankind. In the 3D world (I'm going to start to use that in preference to RL), our possible communications with people are linked to proximity. The internet means we can discover, and be discovered by, much vaster potential group of like minded people. And form genuine connections.

And there is bound to be, in these cases a genuine emotional connection.
We may even decide we like some of these far off folk more than many people who we regularly spend time with in 3D form.
Now that's something new.

Problem is, when we start to see this in 3D terms.

We're human and we're engaging in human interaction. Human interaction that would not be possible if the medium didn't exist.
Think about that. If the medium didn't exist, you couldn't do it.
You can't expect it to apply to the 3D world.

Don't forget, you're interacting in an all too human way, with people that are in some cases on the other side of the world.

Now, bearing in mind that you're coming into direct contact with the personal thoughts of a lot more people here, than you do in 3D, where people hide a lot more, the chances of you coming into contact with minds you feel a connection with are a lot higher than in 3D world.
The realistic chances of anything more than that making any sense whatsoever is downright slim- the odds are stacked against it.

And its a huge problem. We're bumping into people all the time- especially of the opposite sex- and thinking 'This is exactly the type of person I've always been looking for'.
But you're not down the pub.

They don't live in your area, often they don't live in your country.

Of course it IS possible to turn it into a 3D connection. Hell, there are sites on the net solely for that purpose. Though even these, the idea usually is to pick one of '20 hotties in YOUR area up for it now'. The other side of the Atlantic, well, you're talking about taking a holiday specially. And what you'll have is likely to be a holiday romance.
To make it a permanent 3D connection, would ACTUALLY mean one, or both of you, kissing goodbye to their entire life.

And I'm not saying people might not do this. But let's be honest, a lot of 3D connections end, because one party gets a career move that entails a geographical relocation, so let's be honest, if both parties are geographically separated to begin with, the odds against it ever amounting to anything in the 3D world are slim.

The problem is, normal human emotions are involved, but 3D world solutions aren't available.
The point perhaps, is, that treating them as you would were they to take place in 3D world, is a huge mistake.

I've come to the conclusion that it's not a good idea to EXPECT there ever be a 3D connection, or ever make definite commitments to such effect.

Commitments made in 3D have some validity. If you're in a 'committed' relationship in the 3D world, your girlfriend is away for a week, and you're at a party where a very attractive girl is throwing herself at you, I guess you might turn her down.

But are you going to turn her down because of a 'commitment' you've made to some person you've never met in the flesh and have vaguely agreed to meet up with at some undefined point?
This is the reality.

I guess we should understand the reality. I was playing scrabble this afternoon with a female blogger who is a lovely girl. If she lived down the road, I'd love to take her for a drink.
She doesn't.
She lives across a wide stretch of water, so I wished her luck on the date she WAS going on tonight.

That is of course, what she SHOULD be doing. Going on REAL dates with REAL people who she can actually share REAL physical contact with.

You see I think, once we get our heads round this, there is something amazingly new and special offered to us.
A chance to meet purely as minds. Once we stop trying to force these down paths that ultimately lead to our reaching 3D conclusions, we see that the conclusions of 2D world (I prefer that to cyberworld) are just as rewarding.

I'm not saying they CAN'T lead there. Just if they do, they do. And if they don't, they don't. My opinion AS IT STANDS (I emphasise this is the CURRENT position, just so no one refers to the fact it may once have been different), is that none of us here should ever make commitments or promises to eachother, but if the opportunity ever arises to convert a long standing and rewarding 2D connection into a 3D meeting, then perhaps it might be worth taking it. And if it turned out then that the 3D connection complemented the 3D connection, then perhaps the 3D connection should be continued. But then, and only then, should it be considered as 3D. And it's still worth bearing in mind it would probably be hard to sustain. Long distance relationships inevitably are.

But as I say, maybe we ARE offered something new.
I can see a future where these online friendships are a regular feature of society. Where we all have close friends across the globe, who we never meet, but are as much a part of our lives as our 3D friends. They are people whose lives we share, whose daily routines we get to know. To me, that's the rewarding bit. That I never, ever have to be NOT in a two-way conversation. I can continually go through life till my dieing day, in conversation with one person or another.

Is this the future? Mankind, the compulsive communicator?

This is the nervous system of a truly collective species, we are creating, a collective CONSCIOUSNESS, this, here is the brain of Mankind.

And we here, we are the first ones coming to terms with it, learning how to make it work. And we're doing it by trial and error.

Maybe in a hundred years time MOST of the people MOST of us know and consider friends, are people we've never met.

I was talking to someone recently who told me perhaps what many of you might think the bizarrest thing you've ever heard. At one time, I too, would have considered it a little, well, mad.
But now I disagree.

He reckons he's in love. With someone online. Someone he's never met and never actually spoken to.
He actually thinks they are the love of his life. His actual words were that he loved her so much it hurt.
Now, I pointed out this sounded much like a crush to me.

Until he told me he'd felt that way for her about nine months. That he spoke to her via e-mail every day. That he had a picture of her as his wallpaper on his PC.
I asked her if she knew this- the extent of his adoration.
He said she did.
I asked him if she thought it was a little freaky.
He said she was quite sensible about it. She thought he was deluded, but didn't seem to mind.

I asked him what he intended to do about his devotion. He said, absolutely nothing, he had no need to.
He said she was the most beautiful mind he had ever come across and he had access to it every day, what more could he want?
Everything, as far as he saw it, was perfect.

I asked him if he thought he'd ever meet her. He said he doubted it- she lives in a different country, where she's very settled and has a good career. He lives here and likewise, has a career.

I asked him if he was content just having 2D contact with a woman he thought he was in love with, a woman he'd never met in the flesh and more than likely never would. Was he really content with that being his relations with what he thinks is the love of his life.
And if it bothers him that she's having actual 3D relationships with real men. And actually wouldn't give him a second glance anyway.

It seems not.
Seems he's happy as long as he has that contact with her, day in, day out.

I told him he must love her very much, to be happy with that. Apparently, he thinks he does.

I asked him if he had a real 3D relationship with someone else, and they gave him an ultimatum, end the 2D friendship, or the 3D relationship with them, which would he choose?
He'd choose the 2D friendship.

Apparently, he'd rather have just the mind of this girl, than the mind AND body of anyone else, given the choice.

Hey. Life is never simple, I guess.
I'm not saying I agree with him, but I believe he means what he says.

We are changing human existence by what we're doing, of that I'm sure.

This internet is going to change the way we live, the way we think, the way we feel.

It is going to restructure society, it is already restructuring us.

And we're in at the begining.

Let us not forget that.

This is Internet Eden


Anonymous said...

Real people behind the pc, real thoughts and ideas.
Internet is just another medium to meeting people and if it goes further than emails then great for those concerned. Go for it. ;-)
Thanks for the mention Crushed.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, he'd rather have just the mind of this girl, than the mind AND body of anyone else, given the choice.

Well he's a fool or he has not chosen his relationship wisely. He is either "settling" or chosen the wrong person in 3D. No wonder he would not give up 2D.

While there are close connections made online between bloggers, after all we share things we never would in RL, they don't seem to last unless brought into RL. It's like ships that pass in the night, linger for a while then move on. Friendships, or loves. They are not real unless you make them real.

Anonymous said...

(1) It seems to me that meatspace interaction hides more than it does on the Internet. People wear masks all the time in face-to-face interaction, and the level of deception is probably just as great if not greater.

(2) I'm finding that people really recreate meatspace in cyberspace whether they want to or not. Thus, here, we have an extension of the world as we know it.

Take trolls, for example. Do you really think that people who have nothing better to do than to hunt down sites and try to ignite flame wars have that sucessful a social life in meatspace, by-and-large? I would guess that the same misanthropy and lack of social grace would translate from sphere into the other, and vice-versa.

That someone cn hide behind facelessness implies that they are giving you a truer picture of who they really are than you would get in meatspace,and in a shorter amount of time.

Anonymous said...

Friendships, or loves. They are not real unless you make them real.

That is the truth of the matter!

Anonymous said...

Nunyaa- My point.
I'm not sure as I see it just about meeting people, I think it is a thought transmission network, primarily.

I will be posting in the week on the topic your post raised.

jmb- He's kind of single. I'm not sure he's a fool. But I'd say he chooses poor relationships most of the time- settles, yes.

I'n not sure how often they last, I've only been online just over a year. But several have lasted that long.

The impression I got was that he thought, having met this person, that though he knows it could never be 'real' (as in, 3D), he didn't want to 'settle', now that he has a vision of something that wasn't 'settling'.

X-dell- Yes, I agree. I think people often show themselves as who they are, to some degree.
I think a lot of people are very genuine, one or two aren't, but as you say, there probably the same in the real world.

Yes, I think you're right about the trolls. But what is in RL, a social inadadquecy, becomes here, a social nuisance.

CherryPie- But whats real?

The connection cannot be judged in 3D terms, to do so is futile. This is where people go wrong.
But it is SOMETHING.

Quite what, I don't think we quite yet know.
Its all still too early in the life of the medium.

Anonymous said...

Crushed, Now this is a really interesting post that makes some really neat points. But maybe you need to think as much in terms of Second Life, as the net with blogs and IM systems…

I think that maybe the whole net may eventually drift into something more like sl. It is an intuitive way of doing things. Using avatars. In sl you can have multiple threads of conversations. It drives some pretty indigent people crazy trying to cope. You can have multiple conversations going in local chat. When you throw in IMs then it can really get complicated.

But when you get used to it, it works great. Better than outworld rl (or 3d as you dub it) conversations in many respects.

Relationships. I don’t suppose JMB will mind me mentioning her. I know her through sl. I bet I see her probably very differently from how some of those who meet her in rl do. To me she is sensible, mature, but also young and adventurous with sophisticated tastes. We do chat on a bit sometimes, visit together, swap details of good stores, ask each other advice about stuff. I see her as a friend. We never met in rl, probably never will.

I got a blogging ID to visit her site and others she mentioned. She is right that like any relationship, you have to work at sl friendships. But they are as real.

I have a number of really good girlfriends, who the most I know of them are their nationality. International time lines are such a nuisance sometimes if you are trying to organise an outing to suit a group of friends.

Ok. Hanging myself out to dry here...

Love. I can sympathise/understand your friend. I have a man friend in sl (that’s you CP, if you ever read this, just so you know) who I am pretty crazy about. Didn’t mean for it to happen, just sort of snuck up on me before I knew it.

I don’t know what he looks like, how old he is. Nor do I plan to find out. We live on different continents. We have never met and not likely to. We have our own lives. This is a ‘bolt on extra’ that on balance makes things better.

We talk, we go dancing, surfing, swimming, Hang gliding, jet ski, exploring, hang out with friends in clubs, bars, the beach, make out on the beach. You know, have fun together - and yes, as much as it is possible in sl cuddle, kiss, hug, and make love. I dress to please him, I went blond the other day for GS, just to please! I see him as often as we can manage.

We get on together, watch out for each other. It is more a personality/mind thing. Same with my other friends. And many of them have romantic attachments too.

The emotions, real to me, to many of us, based on how strongly others clearly feel them. If you have a reasonably active imagination the whole this is surprisingly like ‘real’ experience. There again How do we experience rl experience? In our heads. We get signals from biological sensors that we interpret as seeing, hearing, touch, smell, taste. Currently sl is limited to most of us as seeing and hearing. But for how much longer?

I bet plenty of gamers come close to forgetting they are not actually in World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy.

Go on Baht_At, say something cutting, you know you want to ;-)

Anonymous said...

Moggs makes some really interesting points in relation to your post.

I wish she had a blog of her own too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks CherryPie :-)