“I COINED THE WORD “CYBERSPACE” IN 1981 IN ONE OF MY first science fiction stories and subsequently used it to describe something that people insist on seeing as a sort of literary forerunner of the Internet. This being so, some think it remarkable that I do not use E-mail. In all truth, I have avoided it because I am lazy and enjoy staring blankly into space (which is also the space where novels come from) and because unanswered mail, E- or otherwise, is a source of discomfort.
But I have recently become an avid browser of the World Wide Web. Some people find this odd. My wife finds it positively perverse. I, however, scent big changes afoot, possibilities that were never quite as manifest in earlier incarnations of the Net. […]
In the age of wooden television in the South where I grew up, leisure involved sitting on screened porches, smoking cigarettes, drinking iced tea, engaging in conversation and staring into space. It might also involve fishing.
Sometimes the Web does remind me of fishing. It never reminds me of conversation, although it can feel a lot like staring into space. “Surfing the Web” (as dubious a metaphor as “the information highway”) is, as a friend of mind has it, “like reading magazines with the pages stuck together.” […]
Toward the end of the age of wooden televisions the futurists of the Sunday supplements announced the advent of the “leisure society.” Technology would leave us less and less to do in the Marxian sense of yanking the levers of production. The challenge, then, would be to fill our days with meaningful, healthful, satisfying activity. As with most products of an earlier era’s futurism, we find it difficult today to imagine the exact coordinates from which this vision came. In any case, our world does not offer us a surplus of leisure. The word itself has grown somehow suspect, as quaint and vaguely melancholy as the battered leather valise in a Ralph Lauren window display. Only the very old or the economically disadvantaged (provided they are not chained to the schedules of their environment’s more demanding addictions) have a great deal of time on their hands. To be successful, apparently, is to be chronically busy. As new technologies search out and lace over every interstice in the net of global communication, we find ourselves with increasingly less excuse for … slack.
And that, I would argue, is what the World Wide Web, the test pattern for whatever will become the dominant global medium, offers us. Today, in its clumsy, larval, curiously innocent way, it offers us the opportunity to waste time, to wander aimlessly, to daydream about the countless other lives, the other people, on the far sides of however many monitors in that postgeographical meta-country we increasingly call home. It will probably evolve into something considerably less random, and less fun — we seem to have a knack for that — but in the meantime, in its gloriously unsorted Global Ham Television Postcard Universes phase, surfing the Web is a procrastinator’s dream. And people who see you doing it might even imagine you’re working.”
I recently came across an interesting article questioning voluntourismand assessing whether it does more harm than good in communities of the global south. It reminded me of my own concerns with “voluntourism” that originated in my college years in which I had participated inAlternative…