In his recent book “Cognitive Surplus,” Clay Shirky, the New York University lecturer and Web pontificator, suggests that the shift from passive media consumption to active and democratized media creation means we will all work in previously impossible concert to build astonishing virtual cathedrals of the mind, solving the world’s problems instead of vegging out in front of “Gilligan’s Island.” As it happens, he even mentions Lolcats. Because Lolcats are both made and shared by the Internet-connected masses, they are examples of how Web tools have “bridged that gap” between passivity and activity. But this lasts only a few paragraphs (in which Lolcats are characterized as “dumb,” “stupid” and “crude”). He quickly pivots back to the more high-minded stuff about how “the wiring of humanity lets us treat free time as a shared global resource.”
Shirky is among the thinkers engaged in the popular debate over whether the Internet makes us smarter or dumber. And that question is interesting, but let’s face it: it’s not awesome. What Tim Hwang and his cohorts basically hit upon was the conclusion that, while that debate drags on, funny cat pictures and so on are really, really popular. And maybe another question to consider is what that means — to consider the Web not in terms of how it might affect who we become but rather in terms of how it reflects who we are.
Two hierarchies enmesh themselves in the routine of consuming pellets and hunting phantoms, producing a single myth. The first is familial, the patrilineal logic that tells us Pac-Man and his partner, who we know only by her relation to Pac-Man, should bear a son in the image of themselves and in the image of modern France. The sign of Jr. Pac-Man communicates by way of exclusion that the future France will, too, descend from Charlemagne. Our magazines advertise that France abides "three colors, [but] one empire," while silently assuring the Gaulois bourgeoisie that the face of Pac will be the singular face of the multivalent state.
All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, me and you is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain't got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time whichever way he likes, so long as he don't interfere with nobody else. That any government that don't give a man them rights ain't worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of government they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any government don't do this, then the people have got a right to give it the bum's rush and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don't mean having a revolution every day like them South American yellowbellies, or every time some jobholder goes to work and does something he ain't got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons, and any man that wasn't a anarchist or one of them I.W.W.'s would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain't hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won't carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won't stand it no more.
Before governments made the ISL mandatory, people often found themselves lost in the myriad of web sites, naively double-clicking Hit The Monkey to Win iPad ads, finding themselves spammed by pop-unders. Acquiring the license typically takes only between 2-5 days of education by your local Surf Training School. You will need to carefully prepare for the final test, in which you are required to answer simple questions like:
- What is a pyramid scheme, and do they really work?
- How do I replace the solar cells on my cyber glove?
- Why exactly is it bad for people to badmouth their governments or big companies online?
- Why is it illegal to surf without a RealIdentity card?
- In which year did Google buy the internet?