Saturday, November 15th, 2003
1. It is a digitally-based medium;
2. It has narrative structure;
3. It involves levels of interaction between “reader” and “author”;
4. It implies elements of communication.
Anyone who has perused Amazon.com knows that fundamentally that “system” is a book store. I go to Amazon to buy books. I “can go” to Amazon to buy books or I can go to the just-down-the-street Borders to do it. Anyone who has done both knows that “getting there” involves a different “route.” I must drive to Borders, find a space to park, and open the front door. Getting to Amazon is, we might say, a little harder, “depending.” Typically, to get to Amazon I must be hooked up to the network which involved an “industry” and an “infrastructure” that is different from the one everyone has been used to for years. I take my body to Borders; at Amazon, I send and receive digitized chunks of information. Amazon isn’t “there”; it is “translated” by my browser; Amazon is both on my machine and on a server all at the same time. One way of thinking about new media is how its manifestations are similar and different to another model of interaction and thus changes the way we think about that interaction.
Issue 2. Everyone who has perused Amazon knows that it is more than a book store, just as Borders is more than a retailer of copies of original works in text. Borders is the result of the tradition of print technology. But they also sell toys, DVDs, CDs, journals, soft porn, and coffee. Amazon, however, offers cutlery, camping equipment, and anything else one may want–even stuff for the garden. Amazon has a pretty good idea of who I am. My gold box waits for me, says my name, welcomes me, and simulates me by offering things I may want–steve as consumer is in the database–based on what I’ve ordered in the past, often to comedic results. For some reason I was offered the DVD of “Legally Blond” in my gold box. Maybe I do want that DVD? Maybe the machine has me all figured out. I have to remind myself–this is a number cruncher. Mythologically, I vest Amazon with “will” just as the Greeks vested the clouds with Zeus. This is the network marketplace, a digital octopus. But it is human made, designed from the ground up. I traverse it by reading and clicking and “searching.”
To quote the judge in MccCarthy’s Blood Meridian, “For whoever makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works may seem to us” (146).
And those who build in digital?