“Why I Am Teaching a Course Called “Wasting Time on the Internet””

“It seems that the Surrealist vision of a dream culture has been fully realized in today’s technologies. We are awash in a new, electronic collective unconscious; strapped to several devices, we’re half awake, half asleep. We speak on the phone while surfing the Web, partially hearing what’s being said to us while simultaneously answering e-mails and checking status updates. We’ve become very good at being distracted. From a creative point of view, this is reason to celebrate. The vast amount of the Web’s language is perfect raw material for literature. Disjunctive, compressed, decontextualized, and, most important, cut-and-pastable, it’s easily reassembled into works of art.”

I really, really enjoy this.

I am exhausted by a surfeit of articles bemoaning the negatives of ‘screens’ and ‘internet culture’ and ‘connected lives’. They all seem to suggest that we should stop having the internet/computers/smart phones, and go back to I guess the 80s when everyone was happy and loving all the time?

We have these new things and these new tools and there are totally negatives, but by focusing on them we (a) fail to reap all of the possible life-affirming benefits, and (b) feel guilty and sick about using the internet.

So, this class and this really fascinating description of it make me super excited about the possibility that we will start seeing more inspections of the positives and the ways that the internet is an existential benefit to humanity and culture.

Related: That video “Look Up” that went viral, and my attempt to break out those concerns so that they can be discussed directly.

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