Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackout (or, Learning to Navigate Old School)

Today a number of websites are protesting the SOPA/PIPA bills currently in Congress by going into Blackout mode. Some, like Google, are symbolic (meaning you can still use their search engine):

Others, like Wikipedia, are full-on, Gandalf style You-Shall-Not-Pass blacked out:


Without getting into the political hot-tub that is the SOPA/PIPA debate, I'll offer a quick note about navigation. In the previous career, navigating from Point A to Point Q was accomplished by any number of whiz-bang gadgets like GPS, ADF, VOR, TACANs, etc.*** And while these were all well and good, we didn't get to use them until later. Much, much later. Instead, we learned how to navigate Old School:


Yes, exactly like that. Just replace the beer, co-eds, parties, and streaking with a compass, maps, ticks, bees, snakes, and the old Mark-1 Eyeball. There's nothing quite like trying to find a white mailbox in the middle of the Virginia woods with nothing but a compass and map, all while fleeing swarms of angry yellow jackets.

Old School, baby.

I'm sure you're asking, "But, CM, what does this have to do with Teh Day O' Blackoutz?" At least, I hope you are, cause otherwise I'm talking to myself...

The point is that we have a lot of technological gadgets that make life easier. Wikipedia has been a phenomenal resource for me whilst conducting research for different WIPs. And Google? Egads, it's like oxygen to the Interwebz. 99.99999999% of my surfing on the web consists of at least one pass through their search engines.

But what if these sites were down for good? What if SOPA and PIPA really did hamstring the Internet so that information was censored/limited? What then?

Well folks, after a massive amount of dismay and protests, we'd have to learn how to navigate Old School. Remember Encyclopedia Britannica? And libraries with data on microfiche? For an older generation, our research consisted of asking the scary librarian where the heck to find newspapers from 1872. And, after a long, piecing glare, he/she would direct us to the back where old, antiquated machines or *GASP*, shelves upon shelves of books waited! Then we'd grab a dozen and read, read, read, read, take notes, read, nod off, read, etc. It was long and agonizing, but that was the world before Wikipedia.

And if push came to shove, we'd be right there once again.

Now I'm not saying that SOPA and PIPA are going to drive us back to the Stone Age of the Digital Age, nor am I supporting their cause. I'm against piracy just as much as the next guy, but as with all things, it needs to be dealt with using a scalpel and not a Daisy Cutter.

However if, and we're going full-bore hypothetical IF here, we lost sites like Wikipedia and Google forever, we'd survive. The adjustment would be painful (and I'd be the first one in line demanding they come back), but we would overcome. We'd rediscover encyclopedias and we'd fill the libraries once more. Like celestial navigation, it'd be a lot less efficient, but we would learn how to deal without the sexy gadgets. Believe it or not, humans have an amazing ability to relearn Old School when they have to.

Let's just hope that it doesn't come to that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to use Google to relearn how to navigate in the woods of Virginia with nothing but a map and compass. 'Cause I'm Old School.

*image courtesy of:

**image courtesy of: Note: several attempts to research Serket and other Egyptian gods brought this page up.

***I know, lots of acronyms. All navigation technology. Trust me.

**** image courtesy of:

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