Sunday, May 22, 2005


David Weinberger's "Small Pieces Loosely Joined"
Chapter 3: Time

Real world time is an irreversible, relentless river, once it has passed we cannot retrieve it.

This is old knowledge, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “You can’t step into the same river twice”

In the real world not only is there a tyranny of distance there is also a tyranny of the NOW. We always operate in the present and if we stuff badly then there is sometimes no going back.

Weinberger uses the metaphor of a beaded necklace passing over a blade, remorselessly, one bead at a time.

But time on the web is more like a hand writing than a necklace being pulled across a blade (69). On the Web there are many branching threads of conversation which extend backwards and forwards in time. The threads are often unfinished, the conversation can continue at any time convenient to the participants.

In the real world time and space are divided into uniform units. On the Web the feel of time and space is much more elastic.
It is not an accident that the Web is distracting. It is the Web’s hyperlinked nature to pull our attention here and there. But it is not at all clear that our new distractedness represents a weakening of our culture’s intellectual powers, a lack of focus, a diversion from the important work that needs to be done, a disruption of our very important schedule. Distraction may instead represent our interests finally finding the type of time that suits us best…. Our experience of time on the Web, its ungluing and regluing of threads, may be less an artefact of the Web than the Web’s enabling our interest to find its own rhythm. Perhaps the Web isn’t shortening our attention span. Perhaps the world is just getting more interesting. (69)


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