McLuhan, back in 1964, predicted that new technology was going to change how we think and affect how we socially interact. A very basic example of this explores how the invention of the ‘light bulb,’ even though it is 100% content free, enabled people to create spaces that would otherwise be useless and dark at night, and therefore had a major social impact.
The internet can be looked at in the same light (pun intended). It enables people to create spaces that are accessible by anyone at anytime. Information can be shared and/or presented (published) instantaneously, and there are no rules or limitations. To stay consistent with the light bulb analogy, the invention of the internet shone light on an infinitely large world that had never been seen (or even imagined) before. This world is so big that we are still in the preliminary stages of understanding it’s true power.
Banksy’s Exit through the Gift Shop briefly touched on one of these powers. Before the internet, street art had a very small audience (people in the area), and it only stuck around until authorities cleaned it up. The internet gave it a worldwide audience, and made it immortal.
After discussing this in class, I was quite intrigued by this concept, and it seemed familiar but I didn’t know why. I let it rattle around in the back of my head for a while, and it finally dawned on me that I had unknowingly taken full advantage of this tool years ago:
To make a long story short, 10 year old me and my friends shot alien movies with my parents 8mm camcorder. When we weren’t filming, we were drawing storyboards. And from those storyboards emerged a comic strip I called Alkocomics. Then when I was about 12 or 13, my parents set me up with the domain http://www.alkocomics.com, and I posted these comics online. In theory, my comics, like the street art, automatically had a worldwide audience.
Obviously the link didn’t go worldwide. I’m pretty sure it didn’t go anywhere outside of a small circle of friends and family. This wasn’t how my 13 year old self saw it though. Instead, he somehow understood the internet like McLuhan had predicted, with it’s full networking potential.
He replied a few days later with a thorough review of my work, some tips, advice, and encouragement. I was absolutely thrilled by the response, and sent him out another email asking a few questions of my own and thanked him for looking at my site.
Looking back at this whole experience this week, I realized it was a perfect example of how the internet is a new frontier in publishing. And whether you are Banksy painting masterpieces on the sides of buildings, or a 13 year old kid drawing comics in Paint, the internet is a way for that work to be displayed and shared. McLuhans prediction was dead on. The internet changed social interaction so much that I was able to contact my favorite comic artist and talk to him and connect on the common ground we shared. That sort of thing was unheard of even 5 years previous.