the arts, culture, letters of zachary mcCune

:: the intro :: the journal

:: noe web day - 'the intro'

>> june 24, 2008

I feel a bit like I am going on a hunger strike. Not to be melodramatic, but spontaneously giving up the internet for a day feels a lot like Lenten fasting, a time to focus on dependency by voluntarily giving up something you love. Not to be religious, although for me, a self-acknowledged “digitalist” who may or may not believe there is divinity in digital data, the internet is something of a gospel, and without it, I fear, I may be hopelessly lost.

Let me back-up for a moment and set the scene. My name is Zachary McCune. I am a student. In particular, I study Modern Culture & Media at Brown University, which generally serves as a sort of carte blanche to investigate anything from the theory of the sign to the sign of the theory. My preference, of course, is to examine what I consider the most rapid, seismic, revolution of culture in human history, the emergence of digital technology. Out of sheer luck, I was offered a summer position at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society (at Harvard University, dontchaknow), and here I sit, and on a macbook at a mahogany desk in Cambridge, Mass. musing on things coded into creation.

I was recently asked to help celebrate “One Web Day” an event I admit I had never heard of. So I googled it, naturally, and discovered that it was roughly “earth day for the internet,” an opportunity to celebrate what the world wide web means to humanity. How could I not be tickled pink? Much of my waking life is guided by the faint glow of the internet, and when not actively “participating” in web culture, I am often studying its dynamics like an anthropologist (a la danah boyd) who can never fully disengaged from the culture s/he studies.

But how might I celebrate such an expansive, and therefore abstracted “thing” like the internet? I could elect to glorify a set space, an individual website, community, trend, activity or use for the internet, or perhaps I could make a weblog of the web, a meta manifesto to all things wonderful about the internet on the internet for the internet. A fine way to celebrate the web indeed. Even considering these two broadstrokes option led me to a larger question: what is that the internet means to me? Or conversely, what would I do without the internet?

I didn’t know.

And I didn’t know if I wanted to know.

Sure there have been times when I wasn’t online, whole blocks of time when I might be camping or traveling or on a boat, unable to access the web around me. But these times were exceptions to my considerations in that I had prepared for them. Moreover, they were often part of situations where using the internet was neither necessary nor practical.

I decided to give up the internet, perhaps for a couple hours. But that didn’t seem all that meaningful. No, I decided it would have to be an entire day, to match the 24 hours of “One Web Day.” I considered the weekend. No, it would be far more crippling (and therefore fascinating) if I picked a weekday, a workday to be precise, provided my employers thought this was fair, and that I continue doing my job, just in slightly altered conditions. Fortunately, I have some of the coolest employers on Earth (did I mention them, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University?). They thought I was crazy; they understood my sacrifice.

They also knew the dice were loaded because it is the Berkman for Internet & Society, after all.

I admit I am a little apprehensive. What will I miss? What communications will fail? To pre-prompt true emergencies, I have provided an auto reply to my email that gives out my phone number and the nature of my experiment. I hope it will not offend people, as I debated for some time about whether or not it was appropriate, but safety wins out.

I also have debated about how to document the experience. I wish I could tell you to follow me live on twitter or facebook or youtube or on my webcast, but that’s kinda the point, what do you do without those services? I will be taking notes on my continued webless day, including a log of sites I would visit, queries I would search and the number of times I yearn to check my email. I will note alternatives I develop to problems I usually solve with the web (you know like, reading the newspaper for “news”). When I complete the 24 hours, all of this content will be uploaded.

I thank you for your patience with my silly social experiment.

ttyl, I’ll brb.

:: to noe web day - 'the journal'