The Tangled Web We Weave [#52weeks]

[This post is one of many that have been relegated to my drafts folder for no apparent reason. Originally written by hand in my Moleskine journal, it never quite made it to publication during my two week experiment in tablet computing.]

2013-02-03 02.39.06

Every time that I’ve sat down to write this week, I’ve ended up writinng about two very important things going on in my life right now: dating and tacos. In a bid to stop the madness, I’m literally writing this week’s post.

(If we’ve never quite met this way before, hi, I’m Jessy and this is how I write, Handwritten script is one of my very most favorite things in the world and despite my love for technology and digital media, I will defend the need for handwriting to be taught to everyone until my very very last breath.)

Not very long ago, my most favorite of social networks released a little iOS app called Vine. If you’ve yet to encounter it in the wild, Vine is an app that stitches together six seconds of video footage into something rather similar to an animated GIF with sound. A product of my most beloved of all things on the internet, I downloaded it immediately. As the rest of the internet went rather mad over it, I couldn’t help but find myself a little clueless.

I’m boring, you see. I’m an art historian at heart, y’all, and if an image moves, I’m not quite sure what to do with it or how exactly to navigate my way through it. My visual vocabulary is very much based on static, fixed images and I’ve never been able to reconcile my comfort with still images with that whole motion thing that has been happening since, uh, video art became a thing. This is probably why that YouTube thing is lost on me, and why I’m not usually a huge movie fan and why my browser(s) together have never had to do much work in the arena of video display. Did I mention that I really, really don’t “get” video?

Okay, back to Vine. Or, well… not really.

I’ve been on a bit of a technology/blog hiatus as of late– did you know that if you leave the internet, everything is pretty much in the same place that you left it when you come back?!– because I’m still in mourning over the passing of Rexie, my pre-unibody Macbook Pro. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the process of content creation and content consumption that takes on the web. At times, I admit, I feel like I don’t even “go here” despite having rather uninterrupted access to the web since the age of about twelve years old. How, exactly, am I supposed to create content in a medium with which I do not always feel confident? How do I create without really feeling I understand what is going on with every “OMG can’t live without it!!!!1!” thing that comes out on the web.

I should probably mention that I think too much, at times, and that sometimes I make things a bit harder than they should be. This is a six second video app we’re talking about, not a film being submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, and yet I’m dropping a bajillion words on WordPress while stressing about it.

Yup, you guessed it: I’m going to go all web literacy on this business in 3…2…1…

I speak about it more than I had ever really expected I suppose, but that is really because I find that as a society, we need it more than ever. Perhaps daydreaming about a little app that creates six second of OMG PICTURES THAT MOVE isn’t the most opportune occasion to start, but more people than ever in our history have access to the web, and that number is growing exponentially in smaller and smaller windows of time. More people than ever are creating content for the web, and more content than ever has made content discovery a problem that much of the Valley and the world is attempting to solve with search and algorithm. But the real problem here isn’t that there is more out there than ever, rather that we are not as a society armed with a suite of critical thinking skills specialized or honed enough to help us navigate this other multimedia place– a simulacrum of the society in which we live built in endless programming languages and has been optimized in seemingly every way possible– that has so quickly become so important to use that some have begun to consider access to it a fundamental human right.

(Slow down, guys– it’s 2013 and there are still people in this world without running water, sanitation, or many of the components of the heirarchy of needs. Access to the internet is important, and the digital divide is nothing to sneeze at– but #firstworldproblem much?!)

I’ve long been a proponent of teaching visual literacy as critical thinking, though with the endless other crises on education’s table, well… we’re not exactly going to see every high school student be legally mandated to take an art or history of design course, are we? We’re awfully busy these days navigating both a virtual and an actual society– much of that virtual society, by the way, is increasingly visual (Pinterest, Instagram and the ubiquity of cameraphones I’m looking at you here!) and we have fewer tools than ever to unpack the endless imagery in front of our own eyes. What happens  then, when we’re inundated with more multimedia content  video  audio, moving image, whatever that has been designed and optimized to capture and hold our rapt attention for as long as possible?

Where are we going with this thing we call the web? And how did we find ourselves here? Sure, my six seconds of a late Saturday afternoon cocktail aren’t the end of the world as we know it, but it only took a day for the first “How to Use Vine in Marketing” webinar to pop up and after dealing with thousands of web and media illiterate college students who are unable to spot simple things like bias, I can’t help but be a bit worried. Where do we start drawing lines and really discussing what we’re up against when it comes to all of our webs, the inter- and outer- ones? Surely we’ve been building them long enough to take a step back and to do a little preventative untangling for this rather large series of tubes we’ve interwoven for decades now, but who is going to start?



One thought on “The Tangled Web We Weave [#52weeks]

  1. I really admire that you can acknowledge your own specialty and admit you don’t necessarily get something off the bat. That kind of self-awareness only gives you room to learn and grow.

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