New York Times Magazine writer Heffernan considers the mighty Internet in all its terrible beauty and power.
As a member of a pre-millennial generation that can rightly say its maturation process paralleled the Internet’s own, the author is in excellent position to declare early on, “if it’s ever fair to say that anything has ‘changed everything,’ it’s fair to say so about the Internet.” Heffernan’s digital odyssey began personally and warmly in the glow of an inchoate social networking platform at Dartmouth College called “Conference XYZ,” which the author used while still a preteen. The ensuing decades have only served to deepen the author’s initial wonder with the Internet. Deeply contemplating the aesthetic meaning behind the Internet’s early interface, Heffernan exercises the same sort of intellectual curiosity more commonly ascribed to things like string theory and quantum physics. She similarly treats popular time killers like “Angry Birds” and “Frisbee.” “But when things settle down in reality, the Frisbee game is too exciting,” writes the author. “It does nothing to teach the all-important patience and tolerance for boredom that are central to learning.” The author’s cerebral, literary approach also informs her discussion of YouTube’s inaugural clip from 2005, titled “Me At The Zoo,” in which one of the site’s founders vaguely talks about elephants at the San Diego Zoo. Heffernan, however, is also sober about the Internet’s negative aspects. At one point, she calls it a “graphic mess…designed to weaken, confound, and pickpocket you.” Still, the author steadfastly defends the Internet from myopic critics who are all too happy to jeer it. “Asking what’s to become of poetry in the age of Twitter is like asking what will become of music in the age of guitars,” she writes. In melding the personal with the increasingly universal, Heffernan delivers a highly informative analysis of what the Internet is—and can be.
A thoroughly engrossing examination of the Internet’s past, present, and future.