Wednesday, February 12, 2003

In Which I Discover Kartoo

Because my Media Literacy students know that watching technology slowly catch up with the rhetorics and epistemologies of new media is a hobby and a vocation of mine, one of them sent me this link. Time, The Wall Street Journal, and even memepool are calling it the search tool of the year for 2002.

Which begs the easily answered question of why google is so hot right now. More deeply, though: Why is google?

Q. Why do search engines for an ultimately spatial, semiotically-driven medium give their results in linear, textual list format?

A. Because the web started as a textual medium; in order to integrate it into our cultures and psyches, it was useful to ascribe it with the qualities of the line, and the metaphors of the page. But such usefulness is always temporary, a stopgap until we know our new tool like an extension of ourselves. What we've learned from the cultural "settling in" of previous C-changes, such as the move from writing to print, or print to audiovisual, is that it takes several full human generation for us to learn how best to reject our old metaphors and build new ones, to know the ghost in the machine well enough to describe it and, more importantly, work with it.

Man is a habitual animal; the conditioning and assumptions we impose on ourselves take longest to change, as they are deepest rooted. It is natural, then, that although the Internet is increasingly evolving as a multimedia format, it has not yet outgrown the flat, nor transcended the heirarchical. Its three dimensional rhetoric stuggles within its two-dimensional metaphors like a cat in a bag. Cartographic models and other spatial interfaces work, but they’re clearly pre-beta, and way too geeky-looking. It's the right idea, but the ergonomics haven't caught up yet.

Still…the promise is there, a gold mine for a meta-rhetoricist and media ecologist. Consider for a moment what MOOs looked like in the early nineties, then look at the blog community today. Picture the path from telnet to trillian. Now imagine Kartoo seven years from now. It's not much yet, but just you wait.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 AM |

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