Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Internet Metaphors: From Static Pages To Streams

In a recent TechCrunch article, Eric Schonfeld discusses a metaphoric shift. For the internet, the dominant metaphor is that of a book, with pages. Now, more and more we are seeing something that looks more like a stream (First with RSS and now with twitter and friendwall). These sites are driving a trend toward fluid, INSTANT information. Traditional websites can't afford not to take note. Schonfeld says "The stream is winding its way throughout the Web and organizing it by nowness."

It does seem interesting that a decade or so after the 'surf' metaphor we get another water-based metaphor in 'stream.' Are we kayakers now? Or still surfing the rapids of the stream. I need someone to organize all the water for me? Maybe a water management technician? A beaver?

(Ward, thoughts on this?)


  1. I'm going to ride this thing:

    What we used to call surfing was really more like rock-hopping over a lazy creek, I think. The surfing metaphor is so much more apt now, when the current of information can easily sweep one's attention downstream, without one even noticing. And that eerie, placid feeling when you're perched on the wave--is there a better analogy for the proper mind-state when navigating the information stream?

    All that slightly informed by my anxiety after reading this.

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  3. I liked 'In Defense of Distraction'. This portion rang true for me:

    'Formerly well-rounded adults are forced to MacGyver worldviews out of telegraphic blog posts, bits of YouTube videos, and the first nine words of Times editorials.'


    I find myself MacGyvering more than feels healthy. It leads to those great dead end conversations:

    "Oh did you see that article in the Times?"

    "Yeah just saw that headline. What was it about?"

    "Not sure, I just sort of skimmed it."

    To actually read something in depth I HAVE to print it out. Is this simply a function of the computer screen? Something a kindle-style screen could remedy? Or even with a different screen would I still be distracted by email windows etc?

    It's not just cursory reading that breeds sciolism though. I mean, what are the effects of brief 140 word twitters? Tweets only ever seem substantial/profound in aggregate or in some meta-analysis.

    I like the idea of distraction as a necessary part of attention and then insight (and I love thinking of the internet as one big Skinner Box!)

    But ultimately I don't buy the argument. It was refreshing/captivatng like a lone voice of dissent is...

    Did you see 'Texting may be taking a toll'?