The Internet is Like Canada – A Listing Aside

Like Canada, the Internet could greatest be outlined by what it’s not. Outdated-timers of the Internet can use this reality as a helpful addition to our armamentarium when combating off the forces of convergence.

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Pierre Trudeau died on September 28, 2000. He was prime minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1984. An immeasurably essential affect on twentieth-century Canada, Trudeau altered the course of a whole era, particularly mine: He was prime minister for nearly half my life.

Trudeau’s imprint endures even for these of us who can barely articulate it. Trudeau left Canadians with a sense, with an inventory of inchoate beliefs for dwelling. I bear in mind his swagger and his jetset way of life, his practically superhuman fluency in English and French. The fabled Trudeau magic gave the impression to be transmissible: His spouse Margaret – her personal lady and an underappreciated Canadian icon, a trophy spouse who places Marlen Cowpland to disgrace – exhibited an uncanny potential to offer delivery on Christmas Day (two sons out of three). It may solely have occurred with Trudeau as a father, seemingly harnessing the very forces of nature.

The magic rubbed off on tens of millions of younger adults. A sign, decades-long affect of Trudeau’s liberal prime-ministerial reign has been the seek for identification. Ask English-speaking Canadians the query “What does it imply to be Canadian?” and, as a rule, the response will start with the phrases “Effectively, not like Individuals, we –”

Solely Canadians may assert themselves by explaining what they aren’t. Even the West and East Germans; the North and South Koreans; the New Zealanders and the Australians; the Scottish, the Welsh, the Irish, the Northern Irish, and the British; or the Walloons and the Flemish – all identifiable in relation to another person – don’t take definition by negation to such lengths.

The ethos of being Canadian via not being American is such a cornerstone of Canadian tradition that it grew to become a cornerstone of pop tradition final 12 months with a high-profile beer business (and its many parodies).

A second definition of Canadian identification has joined the favored argot right here, although it reads extra like a punchline than anything: “As Canadian as attainable underneath the circumstances.” Canadianism, just like the Internet, is a work-in-progress.

And as media juggernauts rush headlong towards an unnatural union of tv and the Internet underneath the rubric of convergence, the complete Internet can be taught one thing from Canada.

Actually. Really. As a result of the Internet, too, defines itself by what it’s not. Each time you or one among your with-it buddies mutters “the Internet isn’t TV,” you inadvertently invoke the enduring paradox of Canadian identification.

Canada, a media crucible#section2

Convergence is going on quicker, and with extra dramatic implications for the web, in Canada than anyplace else on earth. We outpace even the US on this regard, with its richly-financed WebTV and AOLTV experiments.

It’s not altogether stunning. Canada is the media capital of the world, full cease. Attributable to our huge landmass, we had been early adopters of communications satellites (Anik A1, the primary home telecom satellite tv for pc, 1972). Practically each single Canadian has a telephone; three-quarters have cable tv. Cable TV brings in American indicators (regardless of how far north you reside: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories receives Detroit and Seattle stations). U.S. indicators run alongside dozens of Canadian channels, licensed by the CRTC largely to counter American influences. (Canadian channels are essential by advantage of not being American.)

With out even signing up for pay cable TV, I obtain 45 Canadian and 16 U.S. channels. Dozens extra will arrive with digital TV, and all these channels serve a inhabitants of a mere 30 million. Digital telephone companies, wireline and wi-fi, are the norm. And the place did McLuhan – the “patron saint” of Wired, name-dropped relentlessly by Internet arrivistes greedy for mental road cred – do his best work?

Like the US, practically the complete Canadian telecommunications infrastructure is owned and overseen by an oligopoly of communications giants. However with so few oligopolists and so many media retailers for such a small populace, the oligopolists’ attain is much larger in Canada than within the U.S.

Within the final six months, these giants have gone apeshit in “buying properties” in “previous” or “new” media, relying on the place their authentic energy base lies. (To spare delicate Individuals the trauma of studying an excessive amount of about Canada, you’ll be able to learn a sidebar chock-full of .)

As I’ve been documenting on MogulWatch, an adjunct to the NUblog Weblog on on-line content material I write, this frenzy of consolidation, harking back to feeding scenes in Jaws, is all within the title of “convergence.” (Mogul megalomania is the undiscussed subtext.)

What’s “convergence,” as envisaged by the oligarchs? It has one thing to do with combining tv and the Internet, ostensibly over the high-speed traces that 41% of Canadians are alleged to have in-house by 2002.

To whom does convergence make any sense by any means? To individuals who don’t know the web. And in our response to that sort of cluelessness, we should ultimately return to Canadian identification.

High-down or bottom-up?#section3

I’m typical of Web old-timers. I went on-line in August 1991. I predate the Internet. My first tackle was ontmoh!joeclark@UUCP. I’ve programmed from scratch, written for, and designed my very own Internet sites since 1995 (together with,, and I run eight mailing lists. I write about and for the web (right here and for the NUblog and print rags). I’ve received 30,000 E-mails saved in Eudora folders. I’m similar to lots of you in these respects.

However old-timers like me are few in quantity, have restricted real-world affect, and don’t run immediately’s Internet. Entrepreneurs and old-media managers do. It might be charitable to name these folks ill-informed. I meet senior producers at portal websites who, for instance, don’t know what a Weblog is. I’ve met producers, heedless of the failure of Ananova and Miss Boo, who wish to remodel their on-line assist methods into an analogue of the despised Microsoft Workplace paper clip. They don’t know how you can subscribe to or unsubscribe from mailing lists (a time period they don’t perceive, till you substitute “Listservs”), or how you can quote textual content correctly in E-mails, all of that are composed in HTML, since Internet neophytes lack the technical fluency to alter the defaults in any of their applications.

These folks run the Internet, and their Internet is completely different from mine. Neophytes all, the Web that they perceive revolves round (a) Microsoft Outlook, (b) Microsoft Hotmail, and (c) a small bookmark record of the most important of large-scale business American Internet sites, as considered via Microsoft Web Explorer. Neophytes and their deep misunderstanding of the Internet are liable for the lots of of business failures lovingly documented over at FuckedCompany.

Among the many crowd that truly runs Internet “properties,” there aren’t any alternate options, a scarcity that masquerades as a “commonplace.” Their Internet is Starbucks; it’s the three American broadcast networks earlier than cable TV; it’s a single-newspaper city. Their Internet is Pleasantville earlier than colourization. It’s mainstream within the worst attainable sense.

Portals and push: Ominous precedents#section4

In a failed try at interdisciplinarianism, these influential hayseeds deliver what they know from advertising and previous media to the Internet. That’s why we’re caught with banner advertisements (replicating print ads) and, most damagingly, portals, a Internet variant whose construction camouflages its TV heritage in a screenful of 100 underlined hyperlinks.

Portals, designed by upper-midde-class managers illiterate in so very some ways, ape tv by engaged on the idea of generality: Managers arrogantly and condescendingly assume “the lots” (codename: customers) are thinking about imprecise, over-arching classes, like “leisure” or “sports activities.” As described elsewhere, the Web encourages specificity, not generality. Slightly than being captivated by leisure basically, actual persons are obsessive about Depeche Mode or Jeanette Winterson; fairly aside from a ardour for sports activities, followers really hanker for for Brendan Shanahan or, say, Ian Thorpe.

And bear in mind push expertise, one other failed televisual analogue, whereby promoting administrators and lapsed TV producers aimed to overload your 33.6 Kbps modem by shoving preordained “content material” onto your desktop? When confronted with a medium that revolves round person alternative, old-media varieties pulled all of the stops to kill the upstart by drowning it in watered-down tv.

We should always have heeded the indicators. Don’t you bear in mind feeling an unease through the heydays of portals and push? Pondering again, don’t you bear in mind having reservations concerning the two Ps? Don’t you additionally recall having a tough time giving voice these sentiments? There have been few retailers, with no Weblogs to talk of and with previous media barely overlaying the web. (Those that bothered to cowl it relied on an A-list of favoured spokespeople who themselves mirrored the pre-ordained content material of portals and push. That’s if the spokespeople weren’t precise firm apologists profiting from uninformed journos.)

And, furthermore, Web old-timers like me had been busy both lacking the boat or signing up for jobs with portals or push websites. For these of us who missed the boat, we shook our heads and advised ourselves “This isn’t proper,” however we couldn’t fairly clarify why. For individuals who bought out, effectively, we made some good cash, I assume.

We noticed portals and we noticed push. Like Canadians as they behold easy accessibility to weapons or a mispronunciation of the title of the final letter of the alphabet (it’s “zed” in every single place however the US), we seemed on the two Ps and thought, “The true Internet isn’t like this.”

We couldn’t put it into phrases on the time. However, pondering again, doesn’t the hallmark paradox of Canadian identification, defining true Internet ventures by what they aren’t, heartily apply on this case?

The survival of the choice#section5

Gore Vidal was interviewed on a Canadian morning present an important a few years in the past. “Is it true, Mr. Vidal?” the host jauntily requested. “Will Canada change into the 51st state of the union?” “Oh, we’d provide you with a minimum of 5,” Vidal replied immediately.

How can Canada survive within the shadow of the Individuals? Pierre Trudeau: “Dwelling subsequent to the US is in some methods like sleeping with an elephant. Regardless of how pleasant and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by each twitch and grunt.”

However mockingly, whereas Canadians had been nattering amongst themselves struggling to nail down the tremendous print of Canadian identification, we had constructed a rustic. Worldwide, in every single place however the US, we’ve got a strong repute. We’ve achieved so much, regardless of our many urgent social issues, like poverty, homelessness, and aboriginal affairs. The nattering hasn’t caught up with the truth. We don’t have so much to fret about, however fear we do.

In the meantime, the Web spine in the US was solely privatized in 1995. Megacorporations, regardless of repeated failures, proceed their venture to devour the web, thereby obliterating it. Media cartels’ ongoing efforts to converge tv and the Internet ought to ring some alarms, given our expertise and our data, borne out of years of real-world use, of what the web ought to rightly change into.

Replicating the failed historical past of portals and push, we’re being relentlessly propagandized about convergence. (For Canadian parallels, suppose free commerce, deficit discount, flat taxes, and the mind drain.) We’re advised we’d like tv and the Internet on the identical display screen. We’re being advised it’s what we wish and want.

However old-timers know that the essence of the Internet is graphic design – footage and textual content. Streaming audio works fairly effectively, too, even over client broadband connections.

When confronted by claims – from publicists, former TV or promoting executives, or arrivistes and charlatans of comparable ilk – that the present text-and-graphics Web simply isn’t ok with out video, whereas TV urgently wants renewal via Web connectivity, on-line old-timers really feel pangs of unease.

Whereas superannuated TV producers and advert managers natter at us that the web isn’t ok, we dwell the truth: It is fairly good already, regardless of, like Canada itself, its notable lacunæ.

We old-timers surprise why the oligarchs are throwing a lot cash down the tubes in an effort to overthrow the present Internet. We imagine in a sure sort of Web, one which’s open to new concepts however not open to each cockamamie concept.

What I wish to occur is for the sensible elders of the Internet, these of us who’ve been on-line eternally and actually do know higher than the neophytes, to make use of the ideas derived from the perpetual wrestle to outline Canadian identification as an arrow in our quiver in efforts to shoot dangerous concepts out of the sky.

Each time some yokel with just a few million bucks to burn tries to promote you a brand new Internet idea, have an effect on a sage, rhetorical tone of voice and ask out loud:

  • Does this really feel like a real Internet enterprise or actively not like one?
  • Is the plan as Web as attainable underneath the circumstances?

Particular word – Readers thinking about exploring Trudeaumania and Canadian biculturalism can be well-served by Catherine Anneau’s award-winning documentary Simply Watch Me: Trudeau and the ’70s Era, which counterpoints photos of Trudeau with the eloquent, bilingual voices of his period. Even Individuals ought to see the movie; the house video is grime low-cost in U.S. {dollars}.

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