TEH LIFELINE

Two separate and unrelated incidents have caused me to think about our friend The Internet a lot more than I usually would (which is to say, x > 0).

  • 1. In the middle of a marathon session of harvesting data for my dissertation, the Indiana University servers had some issues. This left me sans internet for a little over an hour.
  • 2. As you have likely heard, the ruling cabal in Myanmar shut down that country's internet service in an attempt to quell the mounting protests. (Side note: as terrible as this story is, I simply love the idea of a large red button labeled "THE INTERNET" in a windowless bunker….and a swarthy dictator with his hand poised over it, ready to strike)

    How much of our lives have we surrendered to The Internet? As I remarked to one of my fellow grad students during anecdote 1, I really can't imagine how in the hell political scientists compiled large data sets in Ye Olde Days. Of course, that is hyperbole. I can imagine it. It involved going to a basement in a library in some state capitol and poring through thousands, if not millions, of musty, yellowed pages. The mass quantity of data I have collected from the Census Bureau (~14 days) would probably have taken 9 months to do "by hand." Our Government Info library keeps hard copies of Census publications and raw data. The Census 2000 material takes up 3/4 of a floor. And it's not a small library.

    Aside from the fact that my research (about which, let's face it, no one else really cares) casts itself on the mercy of the internet gods, the extent to which it has become a crutch throughout my life is pretty amazing. I get absolutely zero information from TV news (can't stomach it) or newspapers (I read one on Sunday, if that). I haven't listened to the radio in years. I haven't written anyone else a letter in more than a decade. I communicate daily with people I may never meet (i.e., you) and forge relationships through the blog-o-sphere with people who may not even be real for all I know.

    So yes, it's corny and trite to do a "wonders of the modern age" post, but goddammit, I think we could do worse things with our time than spending a few minutes thinking, "What the hell would I do if this thing disappeared?" That red button makes me nervous.

  • 2 thoughts on “TEH LIFELINE”

    • The Intertubes saved my sanity, to be honest.

      Without it, I would have no intellectual conversation whatsoever. Mother/wife/secretary does not give one a life full of scintillating conversation, believe me.

      My best girlfriend is someone I've never met in person and probably never would have met if not for the net.

      As is true for the rest of my friends. I don't have time, to be honest, and the people I meet in my day-to-day life almost always look at me with that head-tilt, eyes glazed look when I try to speak with them on any topic deeper than where they got that simply darling little outfit for Jr and aren't the Cowboys doing well this year? It reminds of me of the look my cocker spaniel gives us pretty much all the time. Rather like this one.

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