My digital communications class had a 90s theme this week and–no real surprise here–I showed up with my NIRVANA “With The Lights Out” four disc edition which I refuse to actually open up and play.
I keep the coveted collection hermetically sealed by the plastic wrap that it came in as if to preserve it like a time-capsule of my youth. During class our professor, Jon Glass, (who has a cool blog where you can share your first concert experience) had us read and discuss the article, “Why The Web Won’t Be Nirvana” by Clifford Stoll.
Now before you think Mr. Stoll is looking into the future about Internet subject matters of current day that concern all of us, (privacy, financial data security and online bullying to name a few), you should know that he wrote the story on February 26, 1995, over twenty years ago.
In my “end of a long day” delirium, I failed to note the date of the post before I started reading the diatribe on the doomed “trendy and oversold community.” Full disclosure, I was three paragraphs deep before I raised an eyebrow. Thinking Mr. Stoll was writing current day, I actually found myself agreeing with him on some points. (Remember I said, “some” I’m fully aware that many of his predictions missed the mark. e.g. “Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”)
Nevertheless, here are my 5 reasons why, in solidarity with Clifford Stoll, there’s no Nirvana on the Internet:
- For starters, Kurt Cobain would have hated Twitter. We need go no further than lyrics he wrote in the Nirvana song, “You Know You’re Right” wherein he sings, “I will never follow you.”
- Second, to quote Clifford Stoll, “When most everyone shouts, few listen.” Nirvana, as defined by my tangible book in hand Webster’s New World Dictionary, is a noun with the following meaning: “Buddhism the state of perfect blessedness. 2. a place or condition of great bliss.” [Webster’s New World Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2003, Pocket Books by Simon & Schuster]. With all the shouting online not to mention the Twitter / facebook debating I witness, I think great bliss is the last way I would describe my online daily experience. My online Apple Dictionary app (being fair to all forms of mass media), defines nirvana as “(in Buddhism) a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.” By definition then, there is no nirvana in the cacophony that makes up the intricate online world. If anything, the sense of self is magnified online with social media, personal blogs, and self-promotion.
- Electronic publishing has open the flood gates for musicians. Platinum album producer Wade Martin (see photo above) has told me that the shear amount of music online has made it nearly impossible to filter through the quality lost in the quantity. (As a side note, I met Wade Martin as a result of common friend that I became acquainted with solely because of on Twitter.) Music lovers might love the variety offered to them online, but the massive volume makes it difficult to navigate and the opposite of blissful for editors.
- Unfiltered data does, twenty years after Clifford Stoll wrote this article, continue to cause a traffic congestion Internet backup on the “Information Superhighway.” (Remember when we used to call it that?) Sometimes I don’t know which is worse, the 101 Freeway in LA at 7AM or the google search results I get when trying to find accurate information. The desire for information is probably not a nirvana state of mind, but the traffic online, slow speeds, and other common “surfing” complaints can be a source of suffering.
- Lastly, the lack of human contact as Mr. Stoll points out does continue to be an ongoing and ever-growing concern. While some feel that the online communities like snapchat and facebook bring us closer together, others feel that the younger generations rely upon social media too heavily and are losing the art of verbal communication. I tend to agree with Clifford Stoll’s commentary that, “Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee.” I ponder if the very creation of social media was to give us all a sense of human contact to make the Internet a more inviting friendly place. While facebook is no nirvana, I wonder, if we didn’t socialize on the Internet, would we still use it? I wouldn’t have met my friends Wade Martin and Katy Cappella (pictured above) without this great network.
Well, while there may be no Nirvana on the web, there is a mounting chain of emails awaiting me. There is also a book I want to download called “Platform: Get Noticed In a Noisey World” by Michael Hyatt recommended to me by media maven Darren Kavinoky and serendipitously appropriate to this discussion. Plus, I need to post this article to meet my course deadline. So I leave you now to get back to Clifford Stoll’s “virtual reality where frustration is legion” but convenience overrides all sensibilities.
by Nicole Hanratty
January 29, 2016
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This post is for education purposes only for Syracuse University Newhouse School of Journalism.