Re: virus: Primitivism

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 13:34:44 -0400

Radio and T.V can't do this. I suppose in the early years when they were
trying to figure out exactly what radio and television were, they might
have tried and failed.

The web certainly can't connect people in this way.

It also wasn't like the experience of people who currently live in
primitive cultures. For us it was novel.

The reason why I am turning this over in my head is because I am
currently trying to develop some entertainment ideas for the web. that
involves thinking about what the web does well and what it doesn't do

It also illuminated (pun intended) the role of these experiences in a
high tech culture.

Hanging out on a rocky New England beach at sunset evokes a very specific mood
in me. The way I want to describe it is nostalgic, which is strange since I
grew up in Michigan far enough from the water that beaches weren't a central
part of my childhood. But there is something about a cloudy fall twilight that
makes me feel at home.

I like those sorts of moods. I seek them out. I'm wary, however, of trying to
rationalize too much about them. Who was it that said on should not confuse
the Real with the True? Those moods certianly are Real: I feel nostalgic, at
home, as if I've returned to a comfortable place after years without it.

But it isn't True nostalgia. I've lived in Boston two years and been to the
beach maybe a couple dozen times.

Dennett argues that we do not possess a privelidged position from which to
observe our own thoughts and feelings; at least not the one we intuitively
percieve ourselves to have.

I have two comments. First: we should celebrate cool moods and experiences.
Things like that aren't neccesarily rationalizable and if we really understood
why it was happening or how it worked we might be depressed by it's lack of paraphrase Douglas Adams: "It was something that looked and felt
suprisingly like marble...which is exactly what it was: something that looked
and felt exactly like marble"...these things are part of being human.

Second: As we celebrate these feelings lets be careful not to attach too much
significance to specific mood-triggers. I disagree with statements like:

"Radio and T.V can't do this."
"The web certainly can't connect people in this way."

I think it is important not to make statements about what is possible from what
is actual (this is a specific kind of fallacy, but I forget which one). I was
not a big fan of TV when I was in high school or much in college. But last
year I remember sitting in a dorm lounge with forty other graduate students
watching (and I hesitate to admit this) Melrose Place. We laughed at it. We
inserted witty rejoinders that reminded me of Rocky Horror save that they were
funnier for their spontenaity. We threw popcorn at the particularly offensive
commercials. We derided it.

We watched it religiously.

Every week; we anticipated. When people missed episodes for vacations or
papers there was always a gaggle of over-educated soap-fanatics willing to fill
them in on ever gory detail and speculation.

This year my roomates and I watch Beavis and Butthead on MTV (11:00pm to
Midnight). What can I say...I'm not that classy? I'm not that post-modern?

Maybe "primitive" stuff is able to evoke feelings of community because it
appears authentic. We lower our guard and suspend disbelief. Maybe we just
don't know how to do that with the internet yet. Maybe we've just been burned
too many times with TV.

We're always becoming more sophisticated, looking for the novel.

I love the shore. But those feelings are in me, not in the rocks.