[Originally published on Central Station, circa 2010]
Web-sights: My four-year-old recently told me that I had ‘beautiful eyeballs’. I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but took it as a compliment, and also had a think about what my eyeballs do most of the time. And increasingly they look at computer screens (or phone screens, or television screens).
And what is on those screens is increasingly (even tv) networked information of one sort or another, being sifted, sorted and aggregated before my very eyeballs. This coincided with some stuff i’d come across about the future of attention (and the battle for it) and a colleague asking why websites are called ‘sites?’. What exactly is ‘site-like’ about them? I imagine the phrasing is a hangover from the early days of the world wide web when programmers were trying to reach a linguistic middle-ground, to try and help people with no knowledge or understanding of the web visualise its structure — ‘nodes’ become ‘sites’, connected by lines and so on. Probably now ‘web-windows’ (if you can set aside the microsoft connotations) would be a better phrase as frequently the site is more like a frame through which to view the same information connected in slightly different constellations, or filtered by slightly different parameters, or from slightly different angles. I’m certainly noticing in web-design that people are starting to talk about web-presence rather than the (singular) web-site, which seems a more realistic concept to embrace.
The idea of ‘network culture’, and networks within networks is fascinating to me. In the euphoria around many of web 2.0’s perceived triumphs its easy to overlook a parallel story of earlier engagement with networks, a rigourous critique of some of the californian liberal utopian ideology, and an ongoing critical stance, examining the tools at work. Clay Shirky suggests that “communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring”, which may have some validity in terms of mainstream or mass adoption and subsequent social implications, but that does not preclude some socially very interesting things also happening in technological infancy.
Looking forward, in a moment of syncronicity, sometime in 2047, the actual ‘views’ of this blog post will coincide with its title, i’ll have reached my eyeball-attention threshold, and i’ll be interested to see what analogies people are using to describe the web.