Julien Genestoux

Relative movement

One of the common criticisms I heard for my “space to time” post is that of course both time and space are dual and there’s no point in considering one without the other. This is very true! I also want to highlight that even though they’re dual we are actually quite bad at combining dimensions and we always tend give more weight to one of them. Right now, time has momentum.

Applying the old models

I argued that the web’s pionneers initially built the web around spatial metaphors from previous mediums. This is actually a very common approach taken by every new medium. The first books which were printed massively where Bibles. This is quite ironic when we know that the Bible was already the most widely available book of all times, thanks to armies of monks. It took several decades to even start thinking about printing things which were not in the form of a book: newspapers, pamphlet and more….

The same happend with cinema. The very first movies, such as L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat were barely recordings of a static scene. They were just recorded theatre.

There were no camera moves, a single point of view, no special effects… and even no soundtrack. The Lumière brothers “only” took what everyone knew at the time and put it on film, without (at least then) thinking much of what were the new constraints (and what other constraints were gone) around this new form of art.

The web is no different. Most of our metaphors are coming from the print industry, be it the concept of “pages”, “banners”, “menus” and more. Space is key when it comes to printing… but is it still key on the web?

Relative movement

At first, I believed this change in perception was the consequence of the explosion of mobile. But maybe, it’s something more subtle.

When thinking about space and time, it’s hard not to think about movement. Let’s remember the “early days” of the web. Most sites were static. Not only there was no javascript, but even the content of pages was barely changing. The web servers (like Apache) were mostly file servers which understood the HTTP protocol. That means that when you accessed a given site or document, the content was almost always the same. On the other hand, you, the user of the web, were ‘surfing’ the web: going from a page to another, following links… etc. In other words, at first, the web was not moving, while you, the user, were moving a lot.

Us moving around was actually made a lot easier because the web itself barely moved at all.

Fast forward to 2015. The web is now extremely dynamic. More and more content is dynamic. Most pages of the popular sites we use on a daily basis are different every time we load them.

Ajax lead the way to self-refreshing pages and content… which meant it became harder and harder to roam and move. We moved less on the web as the itself became more animated.

Moving around is simple and easy (almost imperative) when the support is static and stable… but as soon as the support becomes animated, moving becomes uncomfortable. Maybe this is the reason we tend to click less and less and end up consuming more and more content from the same applications and tools.

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