Joho the BlogWhat-if - Joho the Blog

What-if

Jason Fry in the Wall Street Journal writes:

The Net makes exploring the world and engaging with it easy in a way we’re only just getting used to. Within a few keystrokes, you can be digging into the news, indulging your curiosity, or foundering in an obsession or addiction. Practically speaking, you can communicate with most anyone you wish whenever you wish. And you can do so at a remove &mdash step away from the PC, or just hit the back button, and your engagement ends.

That remove can be a wonderful thing. It lets us indulge our curiosity almost as quickly as we can think, makes it easy to drop a line to someone we might not feel like we have time to call on the phone and allows us to be part of a community that may be too diffuse for real-world interaction.

The danger is that interacting at a remove can come to seem preferable to the messiness of the real world, where a greater commitment is required and interaction demands more of ourselves than it does in our compartmentalized worlds of browsers and digital personas. My apartment’s messy piles of papers and mottled floorboards are hard to model in Floorplanner, and it’s tempting to imagine a living room without them. But take them away, and my living room wouldn’t feel like home.

I’m not sure how broadly that last paragraph applies, but the previous ones make a good point. The ability to play what-if with ideas lets us run down dead ends faster than ever, which is an important benefit of the Web. Finding paths of thought that go nowhere is often the best way to find paths that maybe go somewhere. [Tags: wsj messiness everything_is_miscellaneous ]

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