Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hyperland


Above is a screengrab of part of my monitors as I watched the documentary, "Hyperland" which Douglas Adams made for the BBC in 1990. The programme focused on what would happen in the future by way of multimedia and foreshadowed much that has come to pass in terms of searchable content, advanced, deep hyperlinking and so on.

Some kind soul has taken the time to upload the programme to Google Video, and there is delicious irony in watching a programme using precisely the technology that is being discussed by Adams and his interviewees rather than the antiquated television for which it was originally made. As the programme discusses the concept of links built on searchable terms I can look around the edge of the video window and see how Google has algorithmically linked to other pieces of media which pertain to the same concepts and ideas, almost exactly as these pioneers predicted. Half watching the documentary I can flip desktops to check on my renders, check my email inbox, look to see what state the items I'm watching on eBay are in and make a couple of changes to my calendar, which will then automatically update my calendar at home all with the inevitable links to other places on the web that are deemed relevant.

It is quite amazing that in ten short years we can have come from a situation where these technologies were literally science-fiction to a point where they have become ubiquitous for many of us. The only oversight that the documentary makes is in its underestimation in the power of text and the extent of user-generated content. Most of the examples in the documentary centre on "Professionally generated" content which is then searchable and navigable by everyone. It seems that at that stage the idea that regular users of computers would want to make their own content and then build communities based on the connections that this content allows had not occurred but here we are, ten years down the line, using most of the technology that the great minds of a decade ago had foretold but doing so in the context of a social and creative revolution they had simply not foreseen.

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