The Network Dream
Shall we invent a new term to represent the expectations of people in this new globalized world? Could a new understanding of life quality and happiness for all be achieved only through ideas emerging from the net-world?
The Network Dream is “that dream of a virtual space where ideas are constructed to provide opportunities for everyone to search for a better, richer and fuller life each according to his/her ability or achievement. Everyone that is on the net-world recognizes the value of the idea and too many of us ourselves have grown trustful of it. It is not merely a dream of 3D reality at home and high wages, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
How much reality there actually is in this fact is irrelevant. As in the notion of The American Dream, the term The Network Dream is already constructed and therefore exists. In this case, there is not a clear origin (the world = the net-world) or receiver and it is less possible to determine a time of duration for uploaded ideas. The freshness of the proposals change over short cycles and what could start as dead could afterwards turn into a super-popular media and vice versa. The spread of network data is faster and wider, and targets uniformly. At the same time it is also ephemeral, and simplistic. The network is mainly a test ground for ideas, giving a constant sense of unclearness or anarchy. The network will maintain its anarchical preconception forever and it can be described as an indeterminate number of vectors flowing and bringing people together. There will not be a diagram clear enough to represent this new anarchy in the net. Although the diagrams are still interesting (cool)…
The basics of The Network Dream:
Old frontier and new frontier makes the new citizen
The American Dream is directly attached to the idea of frontier. Frederick Jackson Turner in The Significance of the Frontier in American History (7) describes the origins of the American culture in relation to its historical border strategies. For Turner the interpretation of the “American” was developed as each generation of pioneers moved to the west during colonial expansion. They abandoned useless European practices, institutions and ideas, and instead found new solutions to new problems created by their new environment. Frederick Jackson Turner believed the spirit and success of the United States was directly tied to the country's westward expansion. This produced a new type of citizen - one with the power to tame the wild and one upon whom the wild had conferred strength and individuality.
The American frontier today has an influence which extends far beyond the strictly geometrical frontier. It spreads its boundaries in many ways such as expanding its global enterprises, steeped in cultural-specific atmosphere, or forging political conditions in many countries in the world. The Network Dream is working similarly, but instead there are no border delimitations and there are no particular governmental forces meeting.
The point of origin for The Network Dream is definitely to be found in The Californian Ideology (1), a mix of cybernetics, free market economics, and counter-culture libertarianism. The new faith has been embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, thirty-something capitalists, hip scholars, futurist bureaucrats and even the President of the USA himself. A superficial reading of the writings of the Californian ideologists show them to be an amusing cocktail of Bay Area cultural wackiness and in-depth analysis of the latest developments in the hi-tech arts, entertainment and media industries. The network is true to this atmosphere of combined individuality and particularity. The network effectively fulfills user’s personal needs and demands while simultaneously catering to individual and group desires. This original spirit is somehow the nature behind openness in the network. Moreover, there are no invitations needed: you have always been in the network.
The most common language used internationally is English which now belongs to the world. It is being changed as it accommodates the fast transformations of modern society. If we apply these thoughts to the network, there too English has been chosen as the common language (“world wide web” are indeed 3 English words) to be use in international communication. The writer, David Cristal, agrees that the web offers a “World Wide Welcome” for global linguistic diversity diminishing the use of English in the Net as the developing countries enter the new revolution (3) (4). On the other hand it is more important to learn how the world´s conversational language, which is mostly happening in English, can be seen as a possible origin for a language common to all human beings. This universal tool is also assuming the modifications happening in its social context. In the network, social context changes very quickly. There is no time or place for any degree of perfection. The new language will spontaneously adapt to the changes. The result will be something different than English; it will probably be so far away from the original arrangement that new norms and rules will be established.
Image and text
Imagery is interlocking with text structures and forms a new layer in the overall syntax in the Network Dream language. The reason why the value of image has increased at this particular moment in history can be explained by thinking process. We now think graphically as opposed to creating narrative mental constructions. In Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences, Lawrence Weschler (8) (6) brings together pairs of images with apparently distant relationships. The end result is a serendipitous global dictionary. Basically he creates a network of speaking images, a very appropriate metaphor to understanding the possibilities emerging from the network culture. There is an identical interpretation within the Network Dream. Users are transformed into images. They are living images with a potential for high intellectual value. As we define ourselves in the virtual realm, images representing us develop the potential for connectivity. They are like attractor points assuming levels of proximity to other images. In the Network Dream the new user name will have connotations with image structures as mentioned above. (an example: humage)
The virtual “I” meets reality. Before, we could decide not to leave a trail of information behind us. People basically decided whether they wanted to write a diary or not. Now there is no escape. Every step in our lives is saved in the virtual storage space. This will eventually transform the way we behave both in the web and later outside of the web. Not only will the individual meet with his past virtual “I” but also the entire net-world will have access to your life diary.
Politics is no exception to this criteria. Governments are aware that information in the network travels faster and more efficiently towards the target than they would prefer. It is very difficult to control what documentation is filtered or when it should appear in the media for better diplomatic reactions. Transparency in the political atmosphere is a must in the Network Dream. Political arguments are always to be shown openly. Secrecy will disappear from the political realm. Society will know everything. A possible problem could emerge directly from this idea: if we know everything, how can we maintain the imaginary structure.
Time and space
If we constantly encounter our past virtual selves thanks to the net, if we are in different virtual spaces at the same time, if it is possible to invent a space or a moment and give it a name and change it afterwards as we like, then the format and definition of time and space in the Network Dream become extraordinarily enriched and complex.
Optimization of events and space
New organization systems will be deployed by the Network Dream. These organization systems optimize relationships between spaces and events by bringing together broad cultural diversity in countries around the globe. The Network Dream identifies targets, processes cultural needs and searches for congruent spaces to locate the events. It is a complex automatic organization process where massive forces of response from individuals establish the common ruling logic.
The web is changing the way we mentally process information. From Nicholas Carr´s article Is Google Making us Stupid? (2) we can extract interesting ideas on the topic. He basically relates the difficulty people are having in reading long written narrative structures to the way we now read in internet, in general, and in search engines such as Google, in particular. We now receive the data as short, rich document flashes with multiple inserted links that send us away from the original target. We are becoming experts in navigating the net and improving our connection protocols. This task now seems to be a “mission impossible” due to the great amount of new documents filling the network today. At the same time we are losing our capacity to comprehend linear ideas in long written structures.
Infinite quantities of information overload the web. Data flows only inwards and never outwards which makes “selection” the user’s constant problematic approach to network data sources. There will be no fires in this “library”. As George P. Landow states in his Hypertext (5) articles, the number of publications has already extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The primary reason that those who need information cannot find it lies in inadequate means of storing, arranging, and tagging information. It is all about improving the fundamentals of “selection”. The Network Dream will offer adequate tooling systems which will make selective procedures more precise, rigorous and adapted to individual requirements. The best creative motifs will come from knowledgeable selecting techniques. From this idea comes the sentence “we all collect therefore we all create”.
1 Our definition of The Network Dream is a variation on the term The American Dream which was first used by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America which was written in 1931. He states: "The American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."
1. Barbrook, Richard and Cameron, Andy. “The Californian Ideology”. Alamut, Bastion of Peace and Information. http://www.alamut.com/subj/ideologies/pessimism/califIdeo_I.html (accessed November 9, 2010).
2. Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, c2010.
3. Cristal, David. English. In Word Classes (special volume of Lingua) 17, 24-56, 1966.
4. Cristal, David. Languages on the Web. Guardian Weekly, 25 January 2001.
5. Landow, George P. Hypertext: the Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, c1992.
6. Timothy McSweeney´s, “A Convergence of Convergences: A Contest” McSweeney´s.
http://mcsweeneys.net/books/everythingthatrises.contest12.html (accessed November 20, 2010)
7. Turner, Frederick Jackson. The Significance of the Frontier in American History. Alexandria,VA, Alexander Street Press 2008.
8. Weschler Lawrence. Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences. San Francisco, California: McSweeney's Books, c2006.