Left on Read

Essentially, the main goal of the ARPAnet shifted focus multiple times. In the beginning, it was intended to share resources among government-run organizations and universities; as computers became more accessible, the formalities and norms loosened up and people began using it for emails. I am interested in the subtle cultural and societal shift that made computer users feel like it was okay to use email to ask someone to retrieve their razor from across the globe.

The Internet has become so available to everyone that it has lost its air of ceremony. Nowadays, I will literally text someone who is right next to me without giving it a second thought. How does this affect the way in which we present ourselves and communicate? I think even the medium and which app we use affect the way we post and share with the world. For example, Twitter seems to be home to senseless memes and personal posts. Facebook is usually reserved for large photo albums of vacations or fervent political opinions from your poorly informed Aunt Sharon. Instagram boasts perfectly exposed photos with a strategically chosen filter coupled with a clever caption–unless it’s a Finsta, then it’s a free-for-all private account where the typical criteria for being socially acceptable does not apply. And you can’t forget Snapchat, a platform to present the best 10-60 seconds of your day which will inflict symptoms of FOMO (fear of missing out) on its viewers.

Not to mention, toward the end of the last discussion, the class sort of erupted in chatter over a shared experience, or rather, something I actually knew about–being left on read. It’s the phenomenon when someone i.e. a crush opens your message without sending a response. How did it get from “finger protocol” to “being left on read”? Finger protocol seemed innocent and useful in nature, but it’s difficult to know where to draw the line; the implications it imposes on personal privacy and security are still being debated today. It’s a complex and redundant social sphere out there, but it really isn’t that serious… or is it? I mean, Harvard rescinded acceptances over offensive memes in a group chat, and people with a bulk of followers receive money for the promotion of products. I’m talking enough to make a living, and a rather luxurious one.

It’s a tricky and abstract network to navigate, but it can pose real consequences and real benefits. The Internet didn’t even exist not that long ago, but humans have already applied their natural gravitation toward hierarchical taxonomy and structured norms to the social aspects. It is no longer a purely personal preference on how much social media intrudes in our lives when the President’s tweets are a part of the national archive. On the bright side, we still have the powerful tool of action and reaction, and social media allows us to send a clear message to rest of the world.


Humble Beginnings

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog, where I can ramble and muse about the Internet, on the Internet. Today’s topic: the formation of the world wide web.

First of all, can I just say it blows my mind how these huge machines that can take up multiple rooms only had the capability of a simple calculator? Reading Where Wizards Stay Up Late¬†was an internal battle for me because my brain kept picturing a modern day computer with a much different purpose and overall meaning. What was once a luxurious and complex hunk of machinery is now accessible to grubby toddler fingertips, professional adults, and everyone in between. I wonder how did they compress all the functions of a computer into a thin MacBook Air? Where do all the tangible parts and cords go? When I imagine the Internet, I picture technicolor waves and the “packets” that Davies deliberately named as small Minecraft-esque cubes zooming through infinitely looping tunnels. It was difficult enough to get computers to speak the same language, but it is even harder to visualize it and fabricate something that has never existed before.

In my opinion, the innovative and loose academic environment that ARPA curated was the perfect breeding ground for something as ingenious as the Internet. Every scientist they took under their wing was given freedom of direction and trusted with a good amount of funding and faith. Since ARPA was a product of the Defense Department, it was often associated with the military; this reminds me of the Manhattan Project which was an inherent component of World War II. Both ARPA and the Manhattan Project brought together some of the world’s best scientists and gave them free reign to construct products with larger political and ethical implications than previously thought. By solving their dilemma of simply making their product work, they unlocked a plethora of questions about how we should use it and whether we could even handle it.

Now, I’m not trying to say that the Internet is just as dangerous as atomic bombs, but yes, I am actually. Essentially, they both pose risks in unique ways. While nuclear world destruction perpetually looms in the air, the Internet is an active part of our daily lives. In the 6th grade, the Internet was simply a portal to coolmath-games.com, but now it is an open door to my privacy and safety.

Although I’ve taken a rather pessimistic and dark stance, I truly believe the ends justify the means. What J.C.R. Licklider envisioned decades ago has blossomed into a thriving entity in itself. Each day I am learning how to use the Internet effectively, but in the spirit of scientific discovery, it’s going to take a lot of trial and error.