Muting the web

July 7, 2008

What would an Internet without language feel like?

In 1996 Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke that temporarily eradicated nearly all of the mental functions that were controlled by the left hemisphere of her brain — deductive reasoning, language, pattern and symbol recognition, recognition of self, &c. Living for several weeks in a world without language, in a world without the ability to name or label things or judge things or give a damn about the details of life, she describes here experience as a Buddhist might describe a perpetual state of samadhi — pure and effortless bliss. Apparently — or one might jump to the conclusion — the key to Nirvana lies in the right-half of the brain.

Dan Pink thinks we live in a left-brain dominated world. He’s probably right. Or left. Never in its relatively brief history has the human species been so inundated language. From the Internet, to radio, to television, to iPods, to roadside billboards, to telephones, to text messages, to ads plastered on the sides of city buses, it is impossible to escape words. Nobody in the civilized world enjoys even the briefest luxury of linguistic silence. Rising stress levels and a complete lack of ability to focus (continuous partial attention, per chance) are just a few of the more prevalent results.

The Internet is perhaps one of the biggest culprits of the crime of language overload. But what if it could be amended with some type of linguistic filter? A silent web devoid of words, both written and spoken alike. An Internet of images, photos, video and instrumental music only. Google searches made possible only by uploading an image or photograph and finding similar results. How would the experience be different? How would the left hemisphere revolt? What would the whole thing feel like?

Gorging ourselves on a never-ending smörgåsbord of words, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the world is made of more than just mental constructions, and that a great deal of communication takes place outside the narrow bandwidth of language alone.