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What makes the internet so wonderful,


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#1    pantodragon

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 03:04 PM

What makes the internet so wonderful, so appealing?





When I lock horns with science and scientists and bring them to their knees and expose their dastardly doings, I am often reminded that I am working on a computer, on the internet, linked to the rest of the world by a web so big it would have Shelob in tears of frustrated envy, a web that one could be forgiven for supposing could only be the work of a space-spider, a monster of science fiction that makes its home among the stars and weaves webs to encircle planets.  And yet, no, this wonder of science fiction is a reality of science.  This dazzling, mesmeric, lighter-than-gossamer cyber-web that wraps our world and extends out into the cold, dark reaches of space truly is the work of mere humans, of scientists.  Is it any wonder that people are happy to be flies caught in the web and held there?  What better fate than to spend one’s life held there, gazing forever on this wonder, transfixed by its shimmering promises of yet better things to come?

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
  Pass onward from Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
  And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said
  The Lady of Shalott.


This is what the internet condemns you to: the Lady of Shalott’s world of shadows.

For those unfamiliar with Tennyson’s poem (and who cannot be bothered to read it --- it is quite long), it is a poem of Arthurian legend about a Lady who has been cursed so that she is condemned to live in a tower, cut off from the world.  She dare not even look directly at the world, dare not look from her window at the life that passes along the road below her tower, but can only sit and gaze at the view as it is reflected in a mirror.  She spends her days viewing life through her mirror, and weaving what she sees into a ‘web’, a tapestry.  She is transfixed by this reflection of a life she can never have, and her one and only delight is to weave these sights into her web.

To save any confusion, especially over the use of the word ‘web’, let me spell out the analogy: the mirror of the poem is the computer screen, and, in modern terms, the Lady of Shalott is an internet user who does not experience real life, but only life as it is brought to them courtesy of the internet.  (I once heard someone extolling the internet on the grounds that “you don’t need to go to the world anymore; the world comes to you.”)  The web she weaves, the tapestry, is an artistic record, a visual diary of all she sees, a Blog.

Books, especially non-fiction, are also mirrors, and the poem could equally be a metaphor for the world of reading, the world of the ‘arm-chair traveler’.  Not so long ago Billy Connolly did a travel programme for TV --- I think he was traveling round Canada. He opened the programme by telling his audience to sit back and let him do the hard work of travel.  Isn’t TV wonderful, he said: I can do the traveling for you and you can just sit back and enjoy yourself.

How has it come to this?

One of my earliest trips was to Turkey, back when it was not a tourist destination, back when people’s image of Turkey was that given them by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, back in the ‘Midnight Express’ days when the only people who went to Turkey were those who visited the Pudding Shop to find company to share the rest of the trip through Turkey, across Afghanistan and down into India; or up into Nepal and the Himalayas.  I stayed in Turkey; against all the best advice of the time, I and my companion, two unaccompanied females, back-packing, stayed on and traveled round Turkey.

All the advice was wrong.  All the stories of Turkey and the Turks brought by other travelers were wrong.  One female friend, a mountaineer, who spent the months of summer wandering across the Himalayas alone but who would not travel through Turkey without a male companion, and that even though the trip was entirely by train from Istanbul, was wrong.

The culture shock was severe.  For the first week I was terrified and had to really steel myself to face going out of my hotel/campsite.  Then I got my head round the culture and I didn’t look back.  It was a wonderful country and the people were wonderful and I never felt safer, or freer, wandering around anywhere in my life.

Everyone is an individual.  Everyone experiences things differently.  You read about travel in a book and you get to know the writer; you travel for yourself and you get to know yourself --- not to mention getting to know the world, the REAL world………

………we took a bus up from the South Coast across the Taurus Mountains.  I am from the UK, a gentle climate with no extremes.  The mountains were hot, the landscape a desert.  Below the road ran a green river looking icy cold.  The bus had its curtains drawn against the heat, and the conductor went round handing out bottles of water and offering a squirt from a bottle of cologne to freshen the hands.  As I peered between the curtains I caught the occasional glimpse of a group of mud-cracked houses hardly distinguishable from the ground they were built on.  We had managed to get a seat on the shady side of the bus, but still the sweat trickled down my face and my arm-pits and back were wet.  I reveled in the experience: “so this is what it feels like in those places I’ve seen in films, places like in the USA where they can fry an egg on a rock at mid-day,” I thought.

You don’t get that sort of thing from reading books, the sort of thing that means that when you go home and watch the TV and it shows pictures of exotic places your senses respond with remembered sounds and smells and ‘atmosphere’ and you know just what that place ‘feels’ like; close your eyes and you could be there.  And no-one can pull a ‘Capricorn One’ on you --- you cannot simulate reality well enough to fool someone who has had the full, sensory experience.  And even if it was a simulation of the moon, of somewhere you could not possibly have been, when you are used to experiencing the world through all your senses, you are still not easily taken in.

Experiencing the world second-hand, through the head only, and perhaps the emotions, but not through the senses, a life of sensory deprivation and other people’s stories, that is the world of the internet; and it is the world of science, and of books, and of TV, and of video games --- and then there is ‘Second Life’ itself, another metaphor for the life, the horror, bestowed upon us by science and technology.

How has it come to this?


A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
  Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
  Beside remote Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode’
  As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra,’ by the river
  Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
  She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
‘The curse has come upon me,’ cried
  The Lady of Shalott.


The Lady of Shalott was able to resign herself to her life of shadows when she knew nothing better, when her heart had not been stirred, when she was a cold recorder of beauty.  Then Sir Lancelot ‘flashed’ into her mirror and the sight of him stirred her as nothing had stirred her before.  It brought her to life and touched her with an irresistible impulse to turn from her mirror and look from her window --- and thus the curse was invoked.  And the curse?  Death.

For people who have known nothing better, people who have led ‘heartless’ lives, lives of the intellect, people who have known only the cage and never freedom, who have lived by the rules and never followed their hearts or spirits or dreams, for these people the internet, science, books, TV, video games and the rest may seem like living, may seem satisfactory.  For those of us who have known freedom, who have followed the dictates of their heart and spirit and dreams, for us the internet, science, books, TV, video games and the rest are the Lady of Shalott’s mirror, a life of shadows with which we can never be content.

Is this how it has come to this then?  People have lived behind bars for so long, have lived cold, heartless, spiritless lives for so long that usage and custom have led to acceptance, and all hope of a better life has gone?

And so they go content with the internet, with science, books, TV, video games and all the rest, with a world of shadows --- and soon they, too, fall into shadow, become nothing more than shadows: if you live too long in a world where your senses are of no use to you, then your senses weaken and begin to fail.  A person whose senses are weakening is a person who losing the ‘feel’ of the world, of solidity, of brightness of colours, of richness of sounds and textures, a person who is becoming a shadow of their former self, a person who is becoming a wraith.

So why do I use the internet, read books, take an interest in science (even if only to damn it), watch TV, play video games and all the rest?  Because I do not wish to invoke the curse, do not wish to die.

Die if you do not use the internet?  Yes.  If all the rest of the world is living by the internet, by science, by books and TV and video games and I choose to have nothing to do with these things, then I will have nothing in common with the rest of the world.  To all intents and purposes the world will be dead to me, and I will be dead to it.  It may not be a physical death, but a death nonetheless.

So, can anyone tell me what is so wonderful, so appealing about the internet, science, books, TV, video games and all the rest?


#2    FLOMBIE

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 03:45 PM




#3    Robin_Shadowes

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 06:30 PM

I preferred internet from 12-13 years ago when I was a noob myself. It was more underground back then. Messenger chat vlients was more basic without all the crap they have now. Everything was more simplistic and not as commercial as now. Actially I'm starting to hate what internet has turned into. It's no fun anymore.


#4    Jeffertonturner

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 06:35 PM

View PostRobin_Shadowes, on 13 June 2013 - 06:30 PM, said:

I preferred internet from 12-13 years ago when I was a noob myself. It was more underground back then. Messenger chat vlients was more basic without all the crap they have now. Everything was more simplistic and not as commercial as now. Actially I'm starting to hate what internet has turned into. It's no fun anymore.
It was a great time to be alive. :)

~Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while -and do whatever you want all the time -you can miss it.~

#5    Rlyeh

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 08:03 AM

View Postpantodragon, on 13 June 2013 - 03:04 PM, said:

When I lock horns with science and scientists and bring them to their knees and expose their dastardly doings
This is news. Have you been huffing paint?


#6    Arbenol

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 09:24 AM

View PostRlyeh, on 14 June 2013 - 08:03 AM, said:

This is news. Have you been huffing paint?

I know. That Panto comment gave me the best laugh of the day.

I reckon where self awareness is concerned, Panto's Johari window has been boarded up.


#7    pantodragon

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 03:39 PM

View PostRlyeh, on 14 June 2013 - 08:03 AM, said:

This is news. Have you been huffing paint?

No.  I've just been watching Whacky Races and rather liked the language.





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