What the Internet can’t do

Posted by Rob Walker on March 12, 2010
Posted Under: "Social" studies,America

I finally watched the Digital Nation episode of Frontline that I anticipated here earlier. It was okay. The thing I wanted to comment on was a very brief segment involving Feed Me, Bubbe, which is an online show that came about when a young guy basically decided to get his grandmother to be the star of this amusing little Web-based cooking program, on which they collaborate.

“I worked until I was 73. I worked for a bank,” Bubbe says, the point being that once she retired she didn’t have to do anything — but she also didn’t have much to do. “And then all of a sudden this kid walked in, and now I’m too busy!” The delight at this turn of events is evident in her voice.

The young guy then says:  “The Internet, I have to say, added years to Bubbe’s life.”

No, sweetheart. You added years to Bubbe’s life. Listen to her version of things: “this kid walked in.” That’s you. Here again is the medium/message problem. The Internet is just something that came in handy, and that you made cunning use of.  I suppose it’s possible that if the Internet hadn’t been there you wouldn’t have come up with anything. But I know for a fact that the Internet is there in millions of scenarios just like this, and nothing changes; bubbes everywhere remain under-appreciated, ignored, left lonely, and maybe even snickered at for not being tech-savvy. The Internet has no agency; individuals have agency. I don’t usually use the word “inspiration,” because it means so little these days, but there is a genuine one here, and it’s not the Internet. It’s you.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page. Tags:

Reader Comments

Nice. I recently read Jaron Lanier’s “You Are Not A Gadget” which contains a similar insight –(That people are lately capitulating in giving themselves short shift and giving all the credit to technology and the supposed wisdom of mobs.)

Written By Randy on March 17th, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

I really need to read that, I’ve been interested in the various reactions to it.

Written By Rob Walker on March 18th, 2010 @ 9:37 am