Art, poetry, digital art, photography, criticism and essays.

24 Jun 2007

Time, the Internet and Intellectual Freedom

Time has a habit of becoming a kind of habitat. An aujord'hui ou demain, a perceived place that one attempts to live in. Of course the irony of this is that time is intangible, a perceived construct rather than an actuality.

Where there are no real boundaries, or boundaries shift regularly and unpredictably, we must make them from the intangible. However, boundaries that are not manifest, that are not of substance, are no real boundaries at all.

Time is the human, solipsistic perception of flux. Time does not exist, but the alteration of things does exist and is perceivable.

The Internet acts as a kind of stasis that "transcends" flux and the huge rate of and amount of change that we experience in the real world. Ultimately, to attempt to transcend change is a way of creating immortality, a timeless, youthful, anonymous arena of no real cause and effect, no responsibilities.

From this point of view, the Internet becomes an alternative reality or utopia, or if one prefers, heaven.

Today, in the West we are an immature society, unable to value emotion or spiritual things. Obsessed with youth and physical appearance, the measurable and palpable and the immediacy of need, we create values that over protect children and demean experience and maturity.

We can no longer wait for "heaven", a christian heaven, an Egyptian "after world" or any other kind of religious heaven, we must have it right now! We must selfishly grasp at it in a vane attempt to experience immortality, while we are still living! Living with pain, accruing wisdom, patience and long-term relationships are strongly discouraged as they require time, self discovery and hard work. We should take a pill to relieve a slight, manageable pain, we often prefer casual sex or short-term relationships, rather than marriage or long term relationships, and so on so forth.

Perhaps we should ask why the Internet has become so popular with the public over the last decade or so, when it has been with us for much longer? This is not just to do with computer companies advertising their products ever more voraciously, it is a reaction to Western society - reality. Along with the increasing rate of change we have an increasing amount of fear, due to this flux. The change that was intended to increase freedom for everyone, has resulted in a reaction that attempts to halt this change. We have developed a situation, in the West, where we can instigate huge amounts of change, but we have not considered the consequences. In fact we cannot deal with the consequences because we have not prepared for this. We don't have the maturity, experience, time nor patience to cope with it.

This has resulted in a restrictive society, where freedom of self expression is compromised. The days of discussion groups, the autodidact, the free thinker have long gone and have been replaced by organised packages of "truths" that are force fed to us through colleges, universities, television, the Internet, etc.

Of course, the Internet is not necessarily a bad thing, it allows for a personal expression that real society no longer has any space for. But, the Internet is not everything it seems. Intellectual freedom does not come without its consequences. The ideas that are created via the Internet and may well influence the real world, should be viewed with caution and maturity. Human intelligence manifests, typically in creativity. It would be difficult to argue that the creation of a nuclear bomb was a good thing. Is genetic cloning a good thing? Creativity for the sake of creativity, so beloved by the Surrealists is not always a good thing!

Our journey towards greater interaction with and via computers has its own problems. The isolation that many people feel in our restrictive and over-mechanised Western civilisation, can be exacerbated by too much Internet usage. Indeed, the development of escapism into computer worlds, may simply exacerbate the problems of society, rather than allow for a mature approach to virtual reality and its link to the real world. The fleeting and hypereal freedom that we experience on the Internet can easily be controlled or censored by powerful Internet companies. This has recently been observed on the Flickr photography website (Yahoo).

Time passes, or at least the perception of alteration and atrophy is accurate. However much we attempt to escape atrophy and change, it will always be a human reality. Science plays with cryogenics and genetics, hoping to cheat death. The acceptance of aging and death is a far easier thing to achieve! The Internet poses questions and frees us, but it's promises are often compromised.

Perhaps we should look to ourselves and our individual and collective common sense, maturity and wisdom, rather than taking a passive role, swallowing the biases and half-truths of education and the media?


  • At 7:45 pm , Blogger Sheila Murphy said...

    one of the most optimistic showings that has come from the internet is the connecting that goes on among people representing many different cultures and locations. I recognize that this is a response to only a small portion of what you are saying. It seems to me an important part of the situation, and one that potentially offers HOPE amid some very trying circumstances.

  • At 9:48 pm , Blogger crescent said...

    Hi Sheila

    What bothers me about the Internet is its unreality. Unfortunately, the mixing of people from differing cultures that occurs on the net, doesn't always occur in real life.
    It may be different in US, but even though, in UK there have been attempts at "integration" and "social inclusion", we have an extraordinarily long way to go before discrimination because of race/culture is eliminated. Often it is about the government trying to win votes or pushing for great amounts of change, without giving proper funding to projects, etc. The UK is full of "sound bites", but very little substance...

    Thanks Sheila


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