Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Early Days of the Web 1: A Site that Broke the Mould

Mobius Strip II, 1963. M. C. Escher.

If you want to get a taste of the ideas floating around during the heady days when the Internet was new, visit the defunct site, The Strip, named after a Möbius strip.  This site, created by graduates in Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1996 to 1999, has been left as a testament to what people thought the Web would do for us.

The Strip ended when the project got too big and the funding dried up.  The Features page has some early examples of interactive sources, which were radical at the time; for a good one, go here.  The Culture section has the proverbial obligatory visual essay on Wittgenstein and a display with sarcastic plays on the missing child on the milk carton:

Every person who worked on the site contributed individual reflections to the site's Eulogy.  Don't miss them.  These people were stabbing at virtual stars and at the very edge of the first wave of the Tech Revolution.  Shane Wallace, one of the site's creators, brought up a Major Tom reference to relate how he felt when he and his friends were forced to stop work on the site:
"His capsule in a decaying orbit, the cosmonaut could feel the temperature rising… Warm then hot, he felt the tremors which signaled the first stages of re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. Out of fuel, out of time, the cosmonaut reflected upon his life--upon the family and newborn son he had neglected; about the books he hadn't written and the many he'd wanted to read; about how little glory he'd known, how little fame. Everything that he'd done or dreamed of doing, was burning around him and he realized that his life had been [led] in vain. I am a failure, thought the man as the thin foil of his capsule ignited and was shredded into molten sparks across the iron-hard skin of the sky.

Far below, a girl pauses beneath twilight skies and glances heavenward. Seeing the bright, brief flash of a falling star, she makes a wish."
A couple of online theses are presented through visual displays and hypertext, and provide tangible examples of how the students thought computer technology would affect how we communicate. Their most important points were that communciation would become non-linear and that that outcome would have philosophical and moral implications. The students predicted in these exhibitions how they thought we would see the world, and how that would reinforce our knowledge of the differences between right and wrong. This is moral philosophy, textual analysis, and postmodern theory channeled through interactive Web use, based on demonstrations of textual engagement and hyperlink practise. The site is now a relic of more optimistic times, when it seemed there was no limit to the good that the Internet could offer. Now those opportunities are still there, but we either take interactivity for granted, or have lost sight of what it's doing to us. The people who created The Strip were completely conscious of the changes that were happening - as they were happening for the first time. The site is a snapshot of active awareness of cultural transformation effected by a massive change in human tool use. In that regard, the site is also a snapshot of a Generation X experience in the 1990s.

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