Mitchell's City of Bits: Commentary and Discussion

Digital Boonies and Virtual Museums: Optimism and Miller's City of Bits

Sharif Corinaldi

While Miller remains obviously optimistic on the subject of the Internet's growth and its ramifications in the upcoming millennium, one cannot help but feel somewhat doubtful at his grand predictions. Central to Miller's premise, that the onset of the Internet and net based technologies are have changed pr will change the world around us in profound and often abstruse ways, is an ambitious vision, one that over-estimates the technological leaps involved. Certainly no one will argue that the Internet has not allowed those with the capital to browse huge amounts of information whenever they desire. As a resource, the Internet is a tool for sending computer encoded information to some given location, nothing more. Viewed from a more pragmatic angle, we cannot help but look to such a tool (at least in a present day sense) as one that lacks the capacity, as yet, to do much more than make a select few a great deal of money. (This being, arguably, the real reason for the teeming cyberhype of the nineties). Our uses for such a device as yet seem hardly describable as "[enabling] grasp without limits upper or lower" (41).

While all that is fine to say, it has all been said before. Today, we garner a great deal of amusement when we look back at the faulty predictions of previous years. Critics in the early twentieth century probably labeled television a waste, and their ancient equivalents criticized books as an unnecessary indulgence. Internet technology may well become the next big thing, and herald the profound changes that Miller seems so fond of pointing out. However, here is the point where we must be careful. Where one can be skeptical about the nature of the technology, it seems more important that we look to the nature of the changes of which we speak. Often it seems, when we discuss a technology that will "change everything" we gain a subtle insight into just how small a view of everything we have. In discussions of the Internet and the changes it may or may not bring to society, underlying social/economic/physical realities go all but ignored.

In short, we've become wrapped up in our own rhetoric about the modern age, that we've bought into a delusional reality, in which we can measure progress with superfast modem cables, phone watches and virtual communities.

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