Virginia Heffernan, journalist and cultural critic, believes the Internet is one of the great advances not only of our current culture, but of any culture at any point in history. The Internet allows for better documentation of the world around us, and we are slowly getting closer to a completely accurate documentation of history. Heffernan compares prior historical documentation to the crackle of vinyl records: they are a representation of reality created by humans but with a low fidelity to reality itself.
Technology, including the internet, is slowly evolving to be better at documenting what life is like. There are 4D movies, iPhones that can create holograms, and apps to document police encounters (such as Hands Up) or put dog ears on a selfie (Snapchat.)
As Mark Fischbach, online Youtube personality known as Markiplier, said back in December, 2014: “The global, shining goal of the Internet is to combine everybody and to let everyone talk with everyone, and unite, and make cool stuff together. I didn’t know it would happen this quickly.” He’s quite right. The Internet works best when everyone can contribute, and it lets people across the world interact and learn about other cultures, and other ways of thinking.
Just a few decades ago, sound in movies was a brand new thing, and color wasn’t even thought of. It was not that long ago that historians filmed real life Civil War veterans doing the now famous rebel yell. As Heffernan points out, the Internet and similar technologies are just illusions of pure documentation, like video of Civil War vets. What’s more, the Internet is just getting better…
Virginia Heffernan is the author of Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet.
Virginia Heffernan writes regularly about digital culture for The New York Times Magazine. In 2005, Heffernan (with co-writer Mike Albo) published the cult comic novel The Underminer. In 2002, she received her PhD in English Literature from Harvard.