Question of the Day, and…

January 28, 2008

OK, so it’s two questions. What happens when the past becomes so prevalent it is no longer even considered “the past”? When the availability of the archive destroys the very concept of the archive?

To give some context, the question comes from a post, from an English prof’s blog, that embeds a Lemonheads video from 1992, and includes the following academic-speak.

For those of us who came of age when mass media had become a hegemonic force so pervasive that it practically needed no ideology to justify it, it’s harder and harder not to look back. The past is available everywhere today: from eBay to YouTube. It no longer needs to be “demystified” by theorists because its abutment to the contemporary interfaces that display it renders it ironic.

Lest it seem that the above refers only to the web, from which reality is a safe retreat where time behaves well, consider the following look forward from William Gibson.

One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn’t cyberspace is going to be unimaginable… Now cyberspace is here for a lot of us, and there has become any state of relative nonconnectivity. There is where they don’t have Wi-Fi.

Putting the above together, the distinction between “here and now” and “everywhere and all the time” is blurring for us, and will cease to be visible or relevant later this century. I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s an interesting thought with which to start the week.

The Gibson quote is from a Rolling Stone interview, which I found via Glyn Moody. I found the question of the day via Liz Hand.