Pleasures and perils of virtual networks
Some years ago, I wrote a book about the ways in which new information and communication technology shapes thought and perceptions of time (Tyranny of the moment in English). Since then (2001), the Internet has changed perceptively, notably through the development of networking applications that enable collective communication, and also interesting "hybrid" forms like the blog, which are unlike any previous form -- an intermediate form between the letter and the article, perhaps. This development might have been predicted by anthropologists, actually (and perhaps it was), and Keith's initiative is very much appreciated. Witness the growth of this scalefree network; less than 72 hours after it was founded, it already has the feel of a bustling Sim City during the rush hour. Or the social science canteen of the University of Oslo in the early 1980s, perhaps. That, we used to say, was where the really important lectures took place. Now, it seems, they happen at non-places like this. But although I'm grateful to Keith for doing this, and am perfectly happy to have joined, let's not overdo it; I still think this technology affects our perception of time. Before you know it, you get into the habit of spending four hours a day on network sites, and you still haven't even reached the second chapter of The Memory Bank, despite starting reading it last week. So if I'm gone from this wonderful non-place for a while at the time, the reason may be that I'm busy reading some book or other (not The Memory Bank, by the way; I finished that before joining this cooperative).