Java And "The Man"
Java: A Cup Of Tea or, Java: the hut
1. The Download Paradigm
The old age of the web is the one of a library, or bookstore, depending
on the degree of commercial dominance. It is one where either the
scholar browses through search after search, link after link, and
site after site, in search of The Truth, or, alternatively, where
the car buyer browses through used car after used car, constantly
harassed by the glitsy and in your face retailer. The prime difference
between the used car buyer and the scholar is that the scholar is
not after a commodity, and therefore does not usually seek
ownership of the text or information found. The consumer, on the
other hand, feels cheated unless a copy of the item is stored on
the local level, or downloaded. Then there is a gain, a win, a kill,
and the hunt ends.
To take pessimistic assumption, most people surfing are
not scholarly in their pursuits, and more and more sites are
".coms" and not ".edus". The goal of the ".com" site,
finally, must be the making of money. The site must in the
end serve the larger goal. Therefore, the surfer is encouraged to
feel like a consumer by being offered clear wins and gains. All the
better if such wins do not cost the surfer money, for the oldest used
car salesman technique is called "the foot in the door".
Once the consumer is convinced that the salesman is out not
for self serving reasons, but actually to better the buyer, anything
can be sold short of bridges from Brooklyn. The easiest way for the
slick car salesman to accomplish this is to make a sacrifice, to
"do something for nothing", because "I like you."
It's no wonder it's easy to download all sorts of interesting
but largely useless stuff from the Internet. Because it's a fast
becoming lot after lot of 83' Chevy's, decorated by strings of colored
2. Radio Lessions
Martin Spinelli's "Radio Lessions On The Internet" provides some hard
research that this rambling distinctly lacks. Spinelli shrewdly compares
the egalitarian rhetoric of the introduction of the radio (and the
attempts to market it) to what's happening to (and with) the internet.
Given, I'm trying to talk about a specific aspect of the web, mainly
the introduction of Java, and its current rhetoric. The thing to realize
is that the Java issue is currently framed in the language of the
"virtual web". I say this to discribe a www that exists within the minds
of the happy people at Netscrape, Microshaft, and many other giants,
as opposed to the people who want to use the damn thing, and not just
for making cash (the author is selflessly interested purely in acedemic
content, for example). Spinnelli makes the slice between consumers and
producers, people who surf to spend, and people who communicate and do
things with the net.
There can be no "zen surfer" who surfs for pure surferdom, because,
as the Andyman's New Media class came to, the path of the random browser
is highly controlled, and not are intirely "choices" to begin with,
much like the radio listener has no exposure to local content
3. Sun Versus Microshaft. Round 1.
nerve strike against the unstoppable hulking Arnold Schwarzenegger of
Bill Gates. And perhaps, if not for the specific climate discribed by Spinelli,
Java's role might not be so talked about. The claim is, with Java applets,
users will not need to have the download kill effect. They can simply
use the applet right there, right now. In fact, communication with other
users will be easier, since the there will be no reason to be offline.
Everything will be integrated, together, happy, a real comminity of love
and respect. And it will cost 5 cents a minute to use anything interesting.
Because there is no more sense of the win for the user, charges will
be more upfront. A software company won't give you demo versions to
play with offline so you'll come back for the real thing. They will
just have a site which costs money to use, if they think there's a market.
So maybe this Java won't be so black or white (or should I say with cream
and sugar) than predicted.
Java cannot really "equalize" the web. Yes, if you spend a
considderable duration mastering the language, you'll be able to create
cute little additions to your site. But the chance, on the basis of pure
glitz factor, private sites can compare to the "big boys" is very slim.
In fact, before Java, and even still, as it gains momentum, HTML keeps
the playing field level. HTML is so easy to use, and so limited, that
all pages basically do the same stuff, unless the authors knew a lot
of perlscript or something.
4. The Hype
If Java offers a machine-independent, efficient way for surfers to use
software online, then it would reduce the time offline, and increase the
online community. Furthermore, its language would allow better
communication online, such as applet chat systems (there are a few now,
but are far between), cool graphical multiplayer games, and the like.
Isn't this what we've all been waiting for? Faster, more useful, better,
more fun, more graphical and dynamic?
The problem now, according the the Java propaganda, is that
Microshaft's ActiveX (more aptly named PassiveX) will take over the www,
and soon Bill will be evenmore rich and infuencial, if that's even possible.
Soon, every time your computer starts up to his smiling face, and you run
MS Internet Explorer, your only choice, Bill will watch your every move,
sucking every penny out of your wallet and widing the income gap to the
proportions of the national debt.
In other words, this time it's a personal thing. Who cares if Java
makes the Internet safe for capitalism. Free market is better than no market
right? Well, as long as you don't mind having 1000 channels of "Married....
5. Join in my "grass roots" "struggle" against "The System" and "The Man"
The real problem is really not whether you'll have to download apps
and use them locally, or use them on the web. Its whether the web will
be a bottom-up, user controlled society, or whether it will be controlled
by Microsoft, Sun, IBM, HAL, or any damn other corperation, who, in the
end, has as much interest in me thinking for myself and getting a wide
spectrum of choices as Bill Gates has interest in becoming a monk.
It really doesn't look like the people who are going to be
orginizing, maintaining, and educating on the net are going to altruistic
people. Java cannot be David to Golaith because it really doesn't do
anything to address the problem: the dominanance of high-production
glitz. The web should not be a fun thing to waste some time with. Whenever
you are having fun, it means you are being lulled into submission by rich
capitalist dogs. The web should not be fun, it should be a tool to strike
back at the Oppressor. A means to start the Revolution, which, by the way,
will not be televised.
Update By Description
9/28/96 Stephen Made safe for WWW
9/30/96 maX added whole Spinelli reference
and made things make sense more