:: noe web day - 'the journal'
or, what zachary mccune did for 24 hours without the internet; a parable.
^ a conversation I may have had with my Dad - #1
>> june 25, 2008
I don’t want to get up. I never really want to get up but this is different, this is like a rainday; getting up will only mean confronting the cold reality of my pledge to not use the internet. For 24 full hours.
Maybe I could just sleep through it.
But the phone rings. It’s my editor, Janine Weisman, responding to my email autoreply.
I am up now, for better or worse. I walk by the sleeping macbook on the desk. Usually I would open the lid, boot up firefox, and jaunty over to nytimes.com, just to see where the national and international world is at.
But today, I walk by the computer without opening it, and go downstairs to the kitchen. I cast a long gaze out the window, trying to decode the clouds. Is it gonna rain? What are the chance of thunderstorms? It’s looked like this beautiful in the morning yesterday, and the day before. Both days ended with torrential downpours and violent thunderstorms.
No internet, I remind myself. Seek alternatives.
I turn on the radio, pretuned to 90.9 WBUR-FM, also known as National Public Radio. I hope to hear a weather report and a brief round-up of the morning news. Instead, the radio broadcaster is interviewing Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com.
>>a conversation I may have had with my dad - #2
There are a long queue of newspaper machines on my way into the train station. I scour them for news: what’s going on in the world? What’s going on in the US? What’s going on in Boston?
I take a Metro out of the green box in front of the station. It’s the only newspaper that’s daily and free, kinda like the internet only in cyberspace the articles are usually 200 word AP rehashes.
The paper tunes me in to a few local Boston issues I would likely have missed. The top story is a proposed taxi rate increase that was actually discussed by taxi drivers in a massive meeting just two blocks from my house. There’s even a photo, that I could have very easily have been in, of the taxi drivers milling around in the neighborhood.
I continue through the paper and read an article on the social networking strategies of Barack Obama and John McCain. Both, it appears, have built extensive facebook profiles and recruiting tools. The article also mentions that you can “friend” either candidate on most social networks, prompting me to wish I could log on to facebook, just to friend the potential next president of the United States.
I wonder if he would write on my wall to wish me happy birthday.
I discover an obscure news article from Israel under the column “International Briefs.” It seems that a police officer fatally shot himself while the French president and his (lovely) First Lady were departing from Ben Gurion yesterday afternoon. I wonder why the reporter uses the term “fatally shot himself” ? Was this an accident? Or a suicide? And does some sort of political implication?
I imagine opening up the computer and searching google news to find out more on this story.
I guess I will have to postpone that investigation.
I get to work. At the Berkman Center for Internet & Society where nary a soul is looking up from their computer (and the glorious internet it contains). A friend asks me how’s it been going so far. I ask him to wikipedia “Jeff Bezos,” I want to know where he went to college.
I sit down at my desk. Open the computer, and… refrain from checking my email. I think about whether or not I should have lunch yet, then think again about my email.
I really need to check my email. It’s pretty much the de facto method of communication in the office, and without I am left vaguely undirected.
I continue to resist checking my email while considering all the emails I want to compose. Including a short memo to the intern list serv about the beach volleyball “court” just around the corner from the center that I believe should be employed for a weekly, Thursday evening intern volleyball series.
I decide that even composing this message will make me feel bad about having no internets.
I remember that my bike is still locked to the rack outside and that I need to replace a broken pedal. I realize that I need to get in touch with the shop where I bought the bike, perhaps it is still under warranty. I wonder what their hours are? And their phone number?
A google search I never run: “international bicycle boston.”
I wonder if the broken pedal is a common problem on the Trek 3700. I wonder what other problems people have had. Is there a Trek 3700 forum I can join or at least read over? What other parts should I replace now, before they fail? I was halfway across the BU Bridge when the left pedal broke. It totally sucked. I would like to avoid that kind of spontaneous breakage in the future, any thoughts on the matter from mother web?
Can I get shiny red chrome pedals for the bike? Because with the black/grey finish of the bike, the machine would look sick with a little intimidating injection of shiny blood red.
- Google Search “red chrome bike pedals”
I peek over a co-worker’s shoulder to see “what’s going on on the internet.”
>> a conversation I may have had with a co-worker - #1
I decide it’s high time I got my daily intake of news. I imagine my fingers crawling over the keyboard to open up nytimes.com, wired.com, boingboing.net, and boston.com in different tabs. I imagine opening up facebook to “friend” Barack Obama. Does he (or one of his nameless intern/aides) check out your profile before he friends you? I will need to wait to find out.
I realize that every time I use wikipedia, I end up clicking through to an average of three other articles. So for every wikipedia entry I don’t read today, I am actually not reading four wikipedia articles.
A single tear falls down my cheek.
The compression of the Berkman’s June 24th Luncheon video finishes compressing. I now need to upload it to the Center’s servers but, of course, cannot use the internet.
I wonder if it would be cheating for me to find someone and direct them to upload the video for me.
I decide that would be cheating.
:: 12: 31
I estimate that I have missed at least twenty emails (a lot for me).
I want to check my email.
I become convinced that I am missing the best day on the internet ever.
My boss confirms that today is the best day on the internet ever.
Do I want to check my email more as the day goes on because I know I am missing more and more email?
>> a conversation I may have had with a co-worker - #2
I decide to sit on the “Creativity and Media Literacy Forum” sponsored by the Digital Natives project. Immediately, I am informed that a good half of the forum will be the web-based discussions, operating as the back channel conversation space for the forum’s five primary presentations. While sitting there, John Randall of the Digital Natives project drops the Conference room’s twin projection screens. He opens up a browser to the Berkman’s home page.
This is the first time I see the internet in over 5 hours.
Despite my personal eagerness to be on the web, just seeing the internet feels like seeing a promotional poster instead of the movie. It’s just a thumbnail, a snapshot, a sketch of all that is going on right now in cyberspace.
More importantly, I realize that without a form of agency, without a personal ability for me to control the navigation of the internet it doesn’t really feel like the internet. The web is not simply a mass of global information available to be consumed, or merely the structures linking that data, but the opportunity to negotiate an individual journey through that information. I begin to realize that the internet shapes my sense of self, in that I may be directed by ads, emails, stumbles, or traditional hyperlinks, but I am still an arbiter of what I consume.
The internet suddenly seems to not be a space I inhabit but rather a (re)structuring of my self as a sort of data flaneur.
For reasons I cannot comprehend, I mindlessly open firefox and let the icon bounce in the dock four times before realize what I am doing and close it.
This is why I turned off my airport this morning, just in case of these kinds of emergencies.
My boss tells me I am missing a great xkcd.
When I try to peek over his shoulder, he closes the window.
While MIT’s New Media Literacies people speak, I resist wikipediaing “Henry Jenkins.” I know the rough entry (I’ve read it a few times before) but what about the details? Where did Jenkins study?
Simultaneously, I realize that I want to google “MIT Comparative Media Studies”
There are so many questions I have about the program. Is it a grad program? Can I get in? (I guess you can’t google that, but it’s worth a shot) Are there other comparative media studies programs in the U.S. ? Abroad?
Google, Google, Google, why have you abandoned me?
(Or, more importantly, why I have abandoned you?)
Is there a way to annotate digital film? Like, write notes attached to the time code of DVD’s or other digital video files? It would TOTALLY rock if there was some fun, free, web 2.0-ie web program for this.
Lots of rumbling and darkening clouds outside. Is there a thunderstorm coming? Perhaps time to look at a satellite Doppler map?
Vainly, I search for TV to check the weather. Where I would have to watch all the weather on planet earth (the weather channel) or hope for a special “weather-update” on one of the local channels.
Either way, there’s no TV.
So I’ll just not know, and that’s kind of exciting.
This… just… sucks.
I decide to buy a newspaper. The last time I bought a newspaper, I was in it. But hey, sometimes the news is more important than vanity.
I decide to sit on a presentation on facebook and collegiate sociology. While listening to the findings of the study, I long to log onto facebook and assess my profile based on the research.
Researcher mentions “The Strength of Weak Ties,” an essay I’ve read, and often quoted. But who wrote it again?
Spontaneous desire to open an internet browser, just because.
>> a conversation I may have had with my boss - #1
My boss comes in.
I have tell him no.
It’s “noe web day,” I remind him.
“But you can sit in my chair, open up firefox and check for yourself,” I follow.
I am dubbed a “worthless intern.”
I decide to sit in on an informal “salon” on games. After a round of introductions, there follows a solid minute of things I would almost certainly usually “internet.” Such as:
>> a conversation I may have had with a co-worker - #3
^ a conversation I may have had with a coworker- #3
Some guy uses the word “locatively” in conversation.
Google Challenge Flag.
I finally escape the buzzing internet hive that is Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the other side of the river, while biking home, I notice a biker moving in the opposite direction down Comm(onwealth) Ave. with a sweet bomber-style bike helmet.
In that moment I realize that my shiny (I daresay “sparkly”) trek bicycle helmet really is due for an update. If I got a cool new helmet, I would likely feel… cooler.
And so, another google query (“bomber bicycle helmet”) goes unsubmitted.
I realize that just because that bomber-bike helmet looked cool, it might TOTALLY suck in terms of safety.
About.com search “best bike helmets.”
I get home. My dad is watching a special on Eleanor Roosevelt. I sit down on the couch and watch it for a moment, then go upstairs to get changed and pass out upside down (feet on the pillows) on my bed.
I sleep for an hour and a half.
I dream of the internet.
I see myself checking my email.
I wake up in a cold sweat confused that it is still June 25th, 2008, and I still cannot check my email.
In an end-of-the-night debate with my dad about the negative social impacts of technology, my father claims that Europe regards driving while using a cell phone as comparable to driving drunk.
Google challenge flag.
I remember that I still have 10 hours left of not using the internet, so my father’s claim stands.
My dad remembers that I am not using the internet, and makes other outrageous claims (about technology, about Icelandic law, about how cell phones ruined parenthood), each ending with a sarcastic invitation for me to google these claims.
“Why don’t go ahead and check it online,” he says, smiling. “… oh yeah, I forgot…”
My girlfriend tells me she started a facebook group online about my experiment. I wonder which friends (if any) joined.
I remember that I put up a cheesy video of myself online and want to take it down.
I cannot take it down.
I realize that I still have to write an email to my advisor. And to my boss. And to my brother in Buenas Aires.
I realize that I want to check my email, but also realize, it can wait.
--- End of Noe Web Day ---