Warning: this post contains a buttload of self-referential linkagery.
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Of course the things we do on the Internet are different from those we did (and do) in front of the TV. But it’s important to remember that they are only different; they are not new. Think for a moment about what you do on the Internet. Not what you could do, but what you actually do. You email people you know. In an effort to broaden your horizons, you could send email to strangers in, say, China, but you don’t. You read the news. You could read newspapers from distant lands so as to broaden your horizons, but you usually don’t. You watch videos. There are a lot of high-minded educational videos available, but you probably prefer the ones featuring, say, snoring cats. You buy things. Every store in the world has a website, so you could buy all manner of exotic goods. As a rule, however, you buy the things you have always bought from the people who have always sold them. You play games. There are many kinds of games on the Internet, but those we seem to like best all fall into two categories: the ones where we can kill things and the ones where we can cast spells. You look things up. The Web is like a bottomless well of information. You can find the answer to almost any question if you’re willing to look. But you generally don’t like to look, so you get your answers from Wikipedia. Last, you do things you know you shouldn’t. The Internet is great for indulging bad habits. It offers endless opportunities to steal electronic goods, look at dirty pictures, and lose your money playing poker. Moreover, it’s anonymous. On the Web, you can get what you want and be pretty sure you won’t get caught getting it. That’s terrifically useful.