Information, Liberation & the Mind’s Eye

[December 11, 2009]

The more digital space expands, the more people access information, news, entertainment—even personal communication—online than through any other medium.

I suppose it all boils down to immediacy. With ever-smaller lag times, you can now catch up with “the latest” on any topic whenever you choose. And if you want to look back at the topic that shook yesterday’s world to its knees, you’ll find limitless stockpiles of news articles. blog posts, user-comments, comments on comments, articles on articles ad infinitem et ad nauseam.

It’s a wonderful thing.

Growing up I was always hungry for information, but the only sources for answers to obscure questions were the aging encyclopedias in my family’s home library— heavier than a planet and smelling like a mausoleum. There was enough dust in one of those volumes to shut down an entire MacBook Air production facility. Not exactly an incentive to learning.

Linear & Limited.
I lived in a small town in an un-gentrified sector of New Jersey, where curiosity in children was frowned on and “Why do you need to know that?” was not an uncommon question. “Look it up,” someone would invariably say, pointing me in the direction of a children’s encyclopedia, carefully edited to include no useful information at all.

Sure, it was full of facts, but offered no help in answering the only two questions that have ever interested me: “Why?” and “How?”

So the first time I saw a digital page, I greeted it with a sigh of relief. Finally, here was a way to address the nagging questions that plagued me as a child without having to go through a condescending human gatekeeper. Better yet, I wouldn’t have to enroll in a four-year degree program just to have little bits of information doled out to me by an educational system wedded to deadbeat linear thinking.

Associative & Free.
Because if digital space has accomplished any one thing, it has established once and for all that every scrap of information and knowledge is holistically connected with every other. It proves a child’s interest in topic A doesn’t need to be justified, simply because the clock says it’s time to discuss topic B. Postponed perhaps, but not justified. In digital space, no one can challenge your desire to know—provided, of course, you don’t live in China.

It has proven a liberating experience for me and, I suspect, has inspired people to reach critical leap-frogging insights faster than ever before.

At the same time, even the most enlightening online experience is wasted unless you take time to reflect, correlate, interpret, edit, embrace and reject—the kind of things you can only do in your head. That just might be the only legacy from the past I want to preserve. The magic that happens when you switch off the power and re-imagine the world in your mind’s eye.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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