Updating the Terminology

10.07.09 |


When I was a child my family referred to soft-drinks with the generic name ‘coke’. If you were not from the midwest, perhaps you would have been perplexed at the following exchange:
Waitress: “What sort of coke do you want?”
Dad: “Dr. Pepper.”

Recently a colleague and I rewrote the course description for a class called ‘Internet Design’. In it we found arcane references to Internet, World-Wide-Web (notice the capitals) and it described how one of the learning outcomes was that students would learn to ‘surf’ and become familiar with the concept of a ‘browser’. My how swiftly things change. This wasn’t written in the late 1990s, but only a handful of years ago. The terminology for how we use the internet, is beginning to sound as dated as using capital ‘I’s’ on the word Internet. The addition of 2.0 gained actual users a fair bit of ground in terms of interaction and a reference point for future historians, but what we endearingly refer to as the web is much more than a connection. In some cases it is not even world-wide, but a closed network of people and places. In other situations it becomes the sole source of information. Thank god we lost the term ‘information super highway’; because what is a highway for some, is a prickly-bush lined path for others.

The above image from Troika‘s, installation, ‘Shit! I forgot the ipod’ aptly reveals this crisis of convention. Although I am experiencing the installation through documentation, I quickly write a mental narrative where the installation details a sort of evidence of  items that make up a ‘life’; satellite, antenna, fan, screen, light, fridge, speaker, sound producing and sound projecting gadgetry and by all means, extension cords.

What is the name for this? A melting of how we communicate, experience, participate, share, connect, see and record? They are each entities in and of themselves. Facebook does not offer me the same same services as my bank or the same list of benefits as the site where I learn Flemish.

So back to a new name. What sort of blank do you want? What is blank to you? How often do you blank and what do you do when you get there? The Troika installation reminds me of tangible goods tossed in with a bit of nostalgia, a fridge made to look like a 1950′s fridge, but with a 4-star energy rating. I’m still not convinced that moving my email to gmail was a right thing to do; Yahoo had been very good to me for over 10 years! The other day I found myself getting sad at the prospect that someday all of our effort put into observing the lives of old classmates and friends on facebook would eventually peter out. Will we move en masse and recreate what we already have under a different logo or hold down a fort that is past its prime?

Perhaps giving this experience a name would help us to maintain it, hold on to it in spite of and along with technology.

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