These Are No Ordinary Times: Time Becomes Real
As we may think about the real time web, the image goes in and out of focus. Pieces of the dream materialize for a moment and then are withdrawn. The solid experience of Track and IM on Twitter start to reveal the contours of the possibility of discovery on the real time web– and then in the blink of an eye, they dissolve into nothingness. Twitter pulls the experience back into the darkness, and we set out as a band of gypsies attempting to recreate it from the resources we find in the commons.
“Real time” puts time itself into the frame. In a simple sense, real time means what’s happening right now. It’s the conscious moment that cleaves the past from the future. It’s the thread of our lives being pulled through the eye of a needle.
Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.
We see the past through the future, as it comes rushing toward us, asking us to make a judgment about this present moment. David Byrne and Brian Eno have released some recordings called “Everything that happens will happen today.” I’d go further and say that everything that happens, happens right now. Your only opportunity to act is in the present moment. Your only opportunity to do the right thing is in the present moment. Your only opportunity to connect with another person is in the present moment. Your only opportunity to pick up the thread of the conversation is in the present moment.
As we stand at the crossroads between the past and the future, we must act, and through our actions express a judgement. Do we act in the present moment only for the present moment? Or do we think both of ourselves and our posterity as we make this gesture or that one? There’s a sense in which a person acting in the present moment for the sake of an unknown future is the essence of morality.
As we deepen the questions about the real time web, we uncover the startling fact that underneath all the layers of technology and specialized lingo, we find only ourselves. Human beings, mortals, gathering together to share our joys and sorrows, our dreams and aspirations, our humanity. As we pound out, hammer and tongs, the basic shape of our experience through the real time Network, we would do well to heed the words of that guy who said, “what if all this stuff really matters?”