I’m talking about the dumbing-down of the internet; the slowing of the information superhighway. It’s been suffering from a slow, but altogether insidious creeping death for a while now, because you can have too much of a good thing. It’s not so much a case of information overload that’s an issue – although, in practical terms, that was a concern until IPv6 came onto the scene – it’s more a case of the quality and type of information that you find on the .net that’s starting to clog its digital arteries.
One of my recent little side projects has been remastering and editing an original 1956 cine film. Sprucing up the quality and removing the artefacts of age and time aren’t a problem; they just take time, an eye for detail and a lot of patience – the difficulties I’ve experienced has come from an entirely different angle. I wanted to add a soundtrack – a mix of effects and incidental music consistent with the type you’d traditionally hear in the background, whilst a well-spoken narrator would chatter conversationally away in a clipped English accent over the top… Jolly good, old chap!
Except it’s been blooming difficult to find anything suitable, anywhere on the web. I know what music I want, (it goes, ‘Dah dah dah, dah dah dee diddly dah, dee diddly diddly diddly diddly daaaaah’ – you know the one!), but i’ve no idea what it’s called, who wrote it or where I’ve heard it before, which has meant coming up with ever more inventive search terms, none of which have been any use at all. ‘1950s documentary music’ turns up films about Buddy Holly; ‘music+pastoral+film+backing+track’ gives me a wealth of Christian music sites and Hollywood movies, and is no help at all; ‘steam train travelling through countryside incidental music’ produces The Railway Children and country and Western songs! In fact, pretty much every search term I’ve tried, no matter how specific or utterly esoteric has failed to produce the goods.
It’s symptomatic of the bloat that is afflicting the World Wide Web… When was the last time you were Googlewhacked? There used to be a time when you could find anything you wanted on the first page of Google – now you’re faced with pages and pages of 1Direction, the European economic crisis, which flag is this week’s most politically incorrect, and Jeremy Bloody Clarkson. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, because apparently that’s all that the rest of humanity is interested in! Mr Berners-Lee’s baby has become a bloated monster, crammed full to bursting with pointless irrelevancies and dross – it may well be the last bastion of free-speech, but – and I say this with a feeling of fatalism – without some sort of moderation or editorial input, it will soon become an unnavigable morass. I can see a time, in the not so distant future, when librarians will be re-inking their stamp pads and dusting down the shelves, because it won’t be long until the only reliable source of information won’t be Google, but a well-thumbed, old-fashioned encyclopaedia!
The statement, ‘size isn’t everything’, is in this case true. The bigger, more bloated and more accessible the internet grows, the less useful it becomes: too much information of the wrong kind is counter-productive – imagine a book index listing every occurrence of every word and every incidence of every punctuation mark: It becomes cumbersome, irrelevant, meaningless and utterly unhelpful.
Recently, I watched a video review of Hello Games’ – soon to be released – No Man’s Sky – it’s 18 minutes’ long, but I drank in every second. This is a virtual universe of 18 quintillion unique planets, and when I say planets I do mean worlds equivalent in real terms to the size of real planets. This is virtual existence on an unimaginable scale, and some would say that it’s just too big… what’s the point of a virtual universe where you can spend an entire lifetime simply exploring a single planet? How meaningful to a human being can an environment be when it is a space so vast that one might never come into contact with another living soul? And, without any external or parallel terms of reference, how exactly is anybody supposed to gain any sense of their place in such an utterly perplexing universe?
SL may be big, but it’s not so big that it’s unmanageable – in area, it’s around 700 square miles, and if that sounds big, it’s not – SL is about the same size of Mauritius, and to give you some idea of how titchy that really is, I’ve arrowed it on the map below.
In fact, SL is so small that we can always find company, make friends and partake of all those incredibly important things that make SL a community, yet it’s still big enough for us to explore and experience a huge amount of new and exciting things to keep even the most demanding of us satisfied. And therein lies one of the fundamental tenets of SL’s endurance as a platform, it is neither too big, nor too small – it exists in the Goldilock’s Zone of virtual worlds. More populous and expansive and it would run the risk of becoming cumbersome or irrelevant, as could easily happen with the internet; bigger still, and it loses all sense of time, place and reality – as I fear will be the case with No Man’s Sky. Going to the other extreme, it becomes claustrophobic, parochial and self-destructive; a place we can become easily bored with and without sufficient social or geographical diversity to remain viable. As it is, it’s just right – and hopefully, that’s just the way it will stay!
Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair
The Police – Message In A Bottle