Image from WikipediaIf yesterday I wrote about Zizek‘s interview regarding “hysteria and cyberspace,” today I began using a quite “hysterical” add-on called “Me.dium.” Generally speaking, “me.dium” provides you with the ability to graphically see your browsing activity. It also shows other me.dium users who are on the same website as you (and surrounding websites) and gives you the ability to interact with them, add them as a friend or simply ignore them. Also, there is a small forum built into the add-on, which allows one to freely post a topic regarding a website or event that one wishes to talk about. One can also peruse the small forum to see what other me.dium users are discussing. Thus, other users, while surfing can post comments in real time and view where other users are in relation to oneself. Moreover, me.dium provides what they deem “relevant” pages that revolve around what page one is currently on, although thus far I am yet to discover a new interesting page or in general to find much traffic at all in the me.dium world. However…
What I like about me.dium is the idea of “responsible browsing”. That is, while privacy is usually the mainstay on the internet, this map allows others to track where you are on the net and click there to join you. Upon clicking, you can see their icon as being on the same page as you. I can see this as being very useful for some work-related project with members located in various offices or even in different countries. Similarly, it can be useful for those who wish to join the bandwagon and see what websites others are using. Otherwise, it can be a bit mesmerizing to watch your icon as you float from one website to another: the self transformed into an orange silhouette.
It seems that me.dium is still in its developmental stages, but if this mapping/interactive function takes off, it could provide an interesting twist in web hysteria. From a Zizekian standpoint, there may be something terrifying about the unknown other being able to follow one’s web activity in real-time (what does the other want from me? Why are they on the same page as me?). Also, it may curb what websites one finds oneself on in relation to how one wants others to perceive him or herself. That is, searching an obscene website knowing that one is openly exposing oneself to it, is visible, may prove quite an uncomfortable experience.
Neil Postman asked the question: “To what problem is this new technology the solution?” So, one could ask the question: “To what problem is me.dium the solution?” Well, it seems that me.dium is working to combat the alienation of the internet, the internet as a private (and perhaps lonely) experience and bringing out the idea of “you are not alone while browsing.” That is to say, it seems to function as a social networking site based not on a flashy profile, but on browsing interests. However, one can also see the business sense in this. Of course, it could become easy, once enough people begin using this function, to track what websites are popular and thus where to advertise. It is also possible to imagine virtual bots used by a company, programmed to converge on a site (perhaps pushing a new product) and thus creating the illusion of their actually “being there.” Also, it should be noted that the sites that appear in relation to your own are not controllable by you, which has its positive points for being able to discover new web content. Postman’s second question: “Whose problem is this actually?” Well, again, it seems that me.dium appeals to those wishing to connect with others knowingly exposing their surfing habits and vice versa those who wish to view others’ pages, the voyeuristic web experience. Moreover, the business person looking to find how people go from one website to the next could take interest in following web habits to determine what is relevant to other people. Postman’s final question: “What does technologies does this new technology obsolesce?” It seems that me.dium is pushing the increasingly popular “visualized” web interface and with the advent of new visualized browsers (such as touchgraph, spacetime, etc.) the text based browser may wither. Also, in creating a real-time graphical browsing environment, me.dium has the capacity to create an interactive and communal browsing experience, which may again affect linear text based search engines.
At its current stage, me.dium is still rather small, but it seems that given the chance and time to grow, perhaps some beautiful things could blossom out of me.dium. Imagine a group of scholars separated by location, converging on me.dium, engaging in chat, while researching some topic of interest. If me.dium were able to set up private spaces for groups to converge and research and chat while viewing the topology of where the others are, then this could benefit the said party, or at least provide an interesting space for discussion and discovery.