Hypermedia Ecology

Ah my old WordPress account. Nearly as old as my Gmail account! I may as well use this, knowing that WordPress is probably more likely to stay up to date and secure and renew their domain name in a timely manner!

I’ve been working hard on an approach to computer and internet literacy, beginning with a web series I’ve called Silicon & Charybdis.

It is my basic premise that modern media literacy must start with nothing less than a comprehension of computers as a medium (or, as Alan Kay called them, meta-medium) containing all the various multimedia and hypermedia which are so visible and socially wide-spread today.

Marshall McLuhan put great emphasis on the importance of being conscious of the ground upon which the figures of our attention were built. Looking through a screen, into a virtual space without considering the hardware is for your sense to close, internalize a groundless world broken off from the meatspace we evolved in. Before you go talking about social media, recognize a thing or two about the gadgets sold to consumers, and the customized hardware used by “hackers”: they are the real platforms. Physically real, tangible, hard, and glacial in their development.

The perceptual gap between the fast-paced world of vended consumer goodies and the 40 year old world of owning a programmable microcomputers is a vertiginous, but not uncrossable gap down the software stack from shiny artistic interface and flickering transistors and capacitors undergoing logically-determined state-changes. From the ground up the human imagination has built an ever more complex abstraction full of meaning and symbols and virtual affordances to apply hardware to our lives. But to see only the software, the applications, and not to see the hardware is to imbue a cyberspace in one’s mind divorced from the reality of the pre-computer age.

Computers don’t change. Individual components improve incrementally. Software is updated. Aesthetics change like fashion. Consumers are sold lists of bullet-points devised by marketing departments. News feeds and stories flood into our perception like a flurry of ever shrinking size and importance. But the computer is the same it’s been this whole time. Recognize that, and like a sea-sick sailor focusing upon the still, distant horizon, you may see your chance for orientation and inner-calm.

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