The Web as Umwelt

Alfred Schutz: “since human beings are born of mothers and not concocted in retorts, the experience of the exixstence of other human beings and of the meaning of their actions is certainly the first and most original empirical observation man[sic] makes”

Dave Weinberger: “some things become clearer if you do not start with the premise that people are fundamentally isolated and battle against noise in order to connect with others. Instead, we find ourselves in a world shared by others. Connection comes first. Isolation and alienation are withdrawals from the pre-existence of what is shared.”

Connection comes first. I think this insight is significant and underrated, even though in some ways it’s staringly obvious. If we take it seriously, it gives us (among other things) a new way of looking at the geek-pathologies of online life: in this view, it wouldn’t be a question of isolated (in Real Life) individuals kidding themselves that they’re connected (online), but of connected individuals distorting some of their connections – overloading some and neglecting others. But then, in obvious but significant ways, we all are connected individuals: if there’s an element of self-deception in these cases, perhaps it starts with the denial of connection.

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