Dispatches From an Extremely Online World

We asked the big (and small) questions about technology and culture.

Written by Andreas Rekdal
Published on Feb. 09, 2022
Dispatches From an Extremely Online World

Netflix’s pivot away from mailing DVDs to customers started 15 years ago this month with the launch of its internet-based streaming service. Fifteen years before that, America Online — which is synonymous with the internet’s early days in the United States — was still working on the first version of its internet browser for the Windows operating system.

All of which goes to say that, as far as the internet goes, a lot has happened in a very short time. So we decided to explore how these technological changes have shaped the media and culture we engage with.

For example: Film directors frame their shots differently these days to accommodate small-screen streaming, and video game engines negate the need for expensive, elaborate physical sets. The quest to perfect scent-based immersion forges on, undeterred by Smell-O-Vision’s questionable honor of being named by TIME Magazine as one of the last century’s worst ideas. And emerging tech concepts like quantum computing have spawned a whole genre of speculative fiction that gets all the details wrong, for the most part.

But creative endeavors can drive technological innovation as well, which is why some major tech companies have developed artist-in-residence programs.

Technology has also spawned entirely new forms of media: Across the world, artists are incorporating artificial intelligence into their work by teaching computers how to paint or partake in interactive exhibits. Blockchain technology has generated new interest in art collection and enabled some creators to make a living from their art — though others argue the benefits of NFTs are overstated. Communities of all sizes and walks of life find common expression through memes that make literally no sense to an outsider. And video games have evolved from stories with beginnings, middles and ends, to living ones more analogous to what you’d find in a long-running network television show.

Oh, and one reporter asked what venture capitalists think about his pitch for a dinosaur theme park startup. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we did.

– Andreas Rekdal, Senior Editor, Features


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