Thursday, November 29, 2012

Web Bouncing

The computer is a powerful tool for visual thinking because decisions are largely spatial. We surf the web, go to a site, and choose an icon. All are metaphors for embodied experience, like cruising the mall, finding a store and choosing products. Unlike verbal thinking, one word at a time, a screen is a whole that attention moves within, making choices, aware of surroundings. It’s more like behavior in space. An essential feature of visual thinking is being conscious of the context. Instead of reading an article, going to You Tube reveals aspects of an event that an article leaves out and takes up much less time. Facial expressions reveal key aspects of the meaning in what someone says. Gestures and self-representation contribute understanding of motives and values. Each individual watching it may find a different aspect interesting. Accidental discoveries can happen in the most unexpected places. During the Arab Spring I went to Israeli National Radio to get their perspective on what was happening in Egypt and was surprised by a story of a UFO sighting over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with pictures. The ability to then follow up and look at the videos by the tourists in different locations offered a unique unfiltered picture without the bias of screened commentary. Instead I got the multiple perspectives of random people who were filming at the time. One woman with a group of tourists was heard to say, “We see those things all the time back home in Mississippi.” (I couldn’t find these recently, the search was glutted with less interesting and hoax oriented stuff. The sooner something happens, the fresher the perspectives.)

Moving around the web on your own may not be first hand experience, but it’s closer and more personally relevant than a corporate media reporter’s select facts.  Having so many choices for finding out more about anything offer ways for the individual intelligence to experience itself and grow in a unique way. Doing searches on specific subjects offers the chance to look at different points of view instead of simply following a favored news source.

Because the interface is visual, attunement to imagery enlarges perspective, with many possible meanings and new connections sprouting from the particulars observed. There’s energy and dopamine stimulated by moving from site to site, the novelty and discovery propelling more curiosity, more questions, so the word ‘bounce’ suits the action. It depends on what interests us about where we land that determines the trajectory to the next spot. Every landing offers new choices making discovery part of everyday experience. It enables us to pull away from the fetters of time, where focus is on a particular destination.

It’s a new kind of disembodiment. Many times I’ve thought of the jump in human intelligence that occurred when we started using tools and wondered what was happening to our minds right now, with such complex tools at our disposal. It’s a crossroads where the choice is entertaining ourselves to death or getting fully involved in a creative use of the new possibilities. John Lilly observed how much more could be learned in float tanks when the mental resources weren’t used up staying balanced while moving around. Exciting things can be happening on a computer while the body is mostly immobile. Who knows what kinds of mental restructuring might occur. We may suffer a species wide depression to varying degrees while awaiting a better perspective so bouncing around the web, not getting caught in one thing, could build skills of navigation in an unfolding picture. It’s a way of experiencing choices we didn’t know were there and seeing ourselves in action, demonstrating who we are and what we care about. In the process larger patterns may emerge that point in specific directions.

With information changing so fast, the skill of navigation will matter more than the information itself. We need the ability to discern significant relationships and understand how to apply them to unfolding events. Looking for the “difference that makes a difference” as Gregory Bateson defined information, we learn to constantly adjust our model in a world of fast-paced change.

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