Weekly Wringer #87: The Internet hurts my brains!

It’s a new year here at the Clan of the Gray wolf and unfortunately, the Commodore’s only New Year’s gift was a cold! Thankfully, you can’t spread germs through video (yet) so you’re safe to watch today’s Weekly Wringer in which the Commodore reflects on how the Internet is affecting our brains. Do you feel more dumberer thx to the Interwebz? Then we get a question for next week about how we memorialize stuff in the Internet age. It’s the Weekly Wringer!

MP3 Download: www.clanofthegraywolf.com/wp-content/uploads/WWAudio/Weekly_Wringer_87.mp3


  • Posted January 13, 2013 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    The role of a museum is to physically preserve relics of the past, presumably with some historical accuracy or perspective. – In simplest terms. These things should be items of importance in one way or another.

    A history museum of course, houses relics pertaining mostly to human history, while a natural history museum has more flora and fauna to speak of. A wax museum is like a history and art museum combined, with astonishingly lifelike figures of historical persons.And of course an Art museums house what is called art.

    In all of these cases, you have points of contention over the fine details, but that’s not the point. They represent something physical and tangible.

    I can visit Tokyo tower or the Eiffel tower thanks to Google Maps alone. I can virtually visit the homes of many of my friends online because of the internet.

    But it’s not the same as going there.

    The internet offers us a chance to see almost anything we desire. An for many of us, some of those things we will never have a chance to see in person. But there is no substitute for experience – and that is what a Museum is regardless of its content. You go there to experience something.

    It might not be as fun as when you were a kid, or maybe it’s more fun now because you can appreciate it more. It’s not as convenient as clicking a youtube link or virtually posing something on an iPhone ap, but if you go it’s because you want to be there. And walking those halls is a journey you will never have with the click of a mouse.

    I like checking out the local art museum once every couple of years. Most of it stays the same, but there’s new exhibits or visiting ones. They had a Star Wars exhibit a couple years ago, which I missed out on. At its most basic, I get to see things I like. A little unfiltered, as I see things I don’t like as well. (I truly dislike most of the Modern Art section), but I also get to think and observe with my own eyes. And there are details, like when you see a painting by Monet, that cannot be duplicated virtually.

    The texture, the canvas, the smell of the paint and the wood frame… It’s precious 🙂

  • DTX180
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

    sonic rose more or less said exactly what i think about the role of a museum.

    If I were to add/reiterate anything I would just add that I think the museum still has a large edge over the internet in terms of establishing a more personal connection with a person. Ya, we can look up dinosaur bones on the internet and see plenty of pictures. But there still is something special about going there, seeing it in a more grand scale, and listening to someone tell you about the subject.

    Furthermore, actually going to a place an interacting with people is always going to create a more lasting memory than “remember that time i looked up so and so on the internet”.

  • Red Mage Red Mage
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    There’s no substitute for the real thing. I like to read articles online to educate myself but I love going to museums. Sure you can look up a jpg of a painting on the web, but it’s a different experience to see the actual artwork in a art museum. A museum offers sometimes an opportunity to see actual relics of our culture’s past as opposed to just reading about it online or seeing a jpg.

    Sure not everything in a museum is real, often many items on display are replicas/recreations/scale diagram but the idea is give the museum visitor an in-person visual perspective of the animal/artifact/tool etc. was/is like in real life. One can read about how big a brontosaur was or the dimensions of megalodon’s mouth and imagine the size of these creatures. To stand next to a fully erected fossil skeleton of such things delivers the information in more visual or physical way that often leaves nothing to imagination.

    Despite, the internet being a powerful informational tool, museums will likely always have their own role in presenting our past in a more “real to life” way.

  • The Bowtie Guy The Bowtie Guy
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:52 AM | Permalink

    On the internet, you can look up a JPG, you can look at a museum’s website, but you cannot see the precise details of the work. As an art student, few things about a work of art are more important to me. You can look at the piece on the internet, but until images reach reality-levels of detail and you can look at them from different angles, which probably isn’t happening anytime soon, you cannot see the precise stroke, the sketchy undertones, and the exact technique. Even if digital images do reach this level of quality, the symbol of the museum would remain intact. Museums preserve great art, whatever the hell it may be. They are the amalgamations of thousands of years of culture. So is the internet, but when you go on the internet, you are simply studying culture, often very specifically and, sadly, often passively. When you go to a museum, you are purposely immersing yourself in culture, and in a sense, celebrating it.
    Let me put it this way: if the museum was going obsolete, why would the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Le Louvre still have thousands of visitors on a daily basis? I rest my case.

  • The Male White Mage The Male White Mage
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:21 AM | Permalink

    One of these days I will get around to visiting the local museum, but the time I get up they close within the hour.

    With a museum it is about the local history and people since the internet “may” have the information, unless it is popular it is hard to find info online about something. Another thing with going to a museum is the artifacts and displays, depending on the museum they may have items that can be interacted with which you can not do with a mouse and keyboard (or touchscreen).

  • Rooben Rooben
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:21 AM | Permalink

    All you guys pretty much beat me to the punch. The experience of being in the same physical space as the artifact/object/art just cannot be replicated with current technology. The scales, textures, colours, even smells add to the experience. The internet ‘museum’ is nothing more than an exibit catalogue at this point in time. Could that change with developing technologies like Oculus Rift? Possibly.

    The only additional point I would make concerns the limitations of physical exibition. Every museum in the world has a large collection which rarely sees the light of day. It’s just not logistically possible to show everything all the time. Also, you have to travel to the place where the items are located. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and it was breathtaking but many people will not have that opportunity.

  • Mr. K Mr. K
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

    I have a really great example from my own personal experience as a journalist (before I swapped careers to education).

    One of the first stories that actually met a large audience I ever wrote during college was about Mel Allen. For those of you who don’t know, Mel Allen was, for many years, the voice of the New York Yankees. Allen got his start in radio broadcasting at The University of Alabama, calling football games while Frank Thomas was head coach.

    Being a Red Sox fan aside, my work on the story went on much as you might expect. Lots of interviews, source material and study. In the course of things, I had to interview current Alabama football announcer Eli Gold– who grew up in Brooklyn, listening to Mel Allen call Yankees games. All in all, it took about three weeks to finish.

    One afternoon Eli and I took a trip to the archives and history museum at the Hoole Library on the UA campus. Now, the Hoole Library houses many priceless Alabama and southern artifacts, like the handkerchief, used as a white flag of surrender, that ended the Civil War. Or Native American artifacts. George Wallace’s wheelchair. That kind of thing.

    But one branch of the Hoole Library is dedicated to Alabama journalists, and of course, houses many things that belonged to Mel Allen. Yankees memorabilia, things from his childhood, old reels from UA football games.

    There was a wealth of knowledge all at my fingertips, but most of it had degraded. Many things had been vacuum sealed, kept in dark rooms or were (at the time) being transferred for posterity to digital (much as the film preservation board does).

    There ended up being a lot of things that I was able to find through the Hoole Library’s multimedia section. Of course, Eli knew about most of the Mel Allen stuff there, so it was nice to have him there, as well as the museum curators who were explaining things to me as the story about Mel Allen unraveled.

    What started out as a simple story on Mel Allen ended up being an entire multimedia package that was carried by both The Tuscaloosa News and The Birmingham News. The story appeared in the paper itself, but encouraged readers to go to their respective websites and play with the flash package I’d also assembled to go along with it. It also encouraged readers to visit the Hoole Library on campus.

    For many of the items included in the package, I required the help from the curators to assemble. Sure, I could have taken photographs of the things I included, but chances are it would have degraded them faster than they already were. So I had to use the library’s in-house photos and multimedia, crediting them properly.

    Now that my story is over, onto the question at hand. While many who have already commented have essentially said, “there’s nothing like the real thing,” I have to argue that the modern museum cannot function properly without the proper blend of visitation/internet. My story illustrates why.

    One of the things I neglected to mention from my story is that most of the things I got to use were held in the reserve section of the museum, which most people don’t get to visit because of the condition of many items. But with the proper URL, you can.

    Sadly, the package is gone from the internet. Which is one of the scary things about this week’s question. I still have the story I wrote in my memoirs, but there’s a lot of work that’s just gone. As a natural extension of this question, we have to find a way to better preserve things that get posted on the internet due to the simple availability of server space.

  • KuraraII KuraraII
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    The internet plays the role of publication (and the preservation of ONLY publication) and not original preservation whereas the museum can do both. A museum has various displays or a website detailing information about the context of specific artifacts or its significance, that is publication. The museum also preserves many of these artifacts for future study, something not at all possible for the internet in many, many cases. The internet represents a publication of 1930 where we have pictures and anecdotes about finds that can never be restudied because they no longer exist; museums are imperative to preventing this proverbial ship of heritage from sinking and only being reminisced about in written sources.

    An example I can give here from experience is what the Royal Ontario Museum does. It has its own collection of finds and some of the very best it puts on display. That’s fine, we can see and read about the object in the glass cabinet, so why is this point relevant? The relevance comes from the fact that if you wish to do research on what this particular vessel was made of, you can request a sample be taken from a fragmentary sample that they have in storage (pottery sherd or whatever). You can then take this sample and apply Radiocarbon Dating (if it is an organic material), Thermoluminescence Dating if it ever had heat applied to it during manufacture, etc etc. That tells you how old this object is; it is not possible to do this with the internet; on the internet you have an image and whatever was first described by the first person to publish it. The museum allows us to take this find from, let’s say, it’s original 1932 study and reanalyze it; the internet distinctly removes this possibility.

    What if the museum has a sample of Chalcolithic Juglets from the Levant? What if the museum’s curator says that “oh, these contained X and Y, but never Z!” The technology and research goals at the time determined the nature of their finds (using a precision level or tool that cannot detect for Z), if this was only on the internet with no material remains to go back to, we have to take this and we can’t do anything to challenge this assertion unless we have comparative studies completed. In a museum, I could go about gathering residue from the inside of the juglets for accelerator mass spectrometry or whatever and I could definitively rebuke “These had X and Y but never Z” with statistical analysis of the material studies that indicate “X and Y occur in 35% of cases and Z along with previously unknown V occur in the other 65%!”

    If there were only photos of Cooper cat and no Cooper cat preserved, how would you test for the Cooper cat having a real cat-face if you cannot intensively stare down the real Cooper cat!? 😛

  • Kaiser Knuckles Kaiser Knuckles
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

    To borrow a bit of this week’s W.W. I’d tend to say that since the internet made us (or rather a portion of the populace) lazier; the use of Museums or simply their importance diminished. I am completely with everyone who says that seeing the real thing as tangible objects beats the virtual experience, but a lot of people won’t go the extra mile after reading and seeing pictures and whatnot on the web.

    How many people nowadays walk by a museum and randomly decide to enter and experience the wonders within after being literally bombarded with similar things on their computers and cellphones? Less than 15 years ago I believe. I might be wrong, but I see it more like an abroad vacation activity.

    To use an exemple; this summer there was a huge Star Wars exposition in a Montreal museum. I am an avid fan of everything that is SW related and was very hyped to KNOWN that it was taking place. I live an hour away from there, the exposition lasted for about 3 months I believe, and I never went there. Even though I visited friends in the city while it was taking place.

    Maybe all of this doesn’t mean much, but this is where I stand on the matter. Everything is too accessible today and, as I see it, it makes us care less. End of my first COTGW comment.

  • khog143
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Permalink

    I live in a suburb of Dallas, and recently a new museum opened up (the Perot Museum of Nature and Science), and I was thinking the exact same thing. I pretty much have the same feeling as most others, that you can’t beat the real thing. There is just something that is special about going to a location that is specified for learning, and being amongst other peers, and having a tactile learning experience.

    It isn’t only the fact that you can learn stuff by going to a museum, or similar location. It is the fact that you get to experience something that you can’t from reading an article on wikipedia, or watching a video on YouTube. Five years down the road, I will be able to remember something much better if there is an experience to tie in with the learning process, rather than just a quick google search on my smartphone.

    Also, by going to a physical location, you receive much better insight into the specific details that a picture or video just can’t show. Sure, I could just see pictures of the Grand Canyon, or any other national landmark, but until I am standing there, experiencing the awe of certain things in real life, it is hard for me to fully embrace and understand the magnitude it.

  • haveacorndog
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:16 AM | Permalink

    When I go places like museums or zoos or aquariums, I tend to prefer to look at the specimens rather than the information about the specimens. Sometimes I still like to read a little bit so that I know what I am looking at, or at least so that I can make note of the name of whatever it is. I figure, hey, if I really need to know about the habits of flying foxes or poison dart frogs, I can look it up. But while I’m there, I really don’t want to waste my time reading when instead I can be spending it by looking at or watching the specimen and soaking in as much detail as possible.

    I almost want to say that the function of the internet as a research tool helps influence my lack of regard for all the carefully thought out plaques that accompany exhibits. But when I was a kid I used to spend hours reading my trusty World Book Encyclopedia, so I don’t know how much of it is just part of how I like to experience my world.

    But to me, this just shows that the most important aspect of museums is the ability to be in the presence of such awe inspiring things as the original Wright Flyer (I had to double check because I grew up near where they flew, and I’d been to the memorial and seen the replica there), or the Hope Diamond (it could use a better display in my opinion), or the Sputnik (!), or even the replica of Lucy (I was so disappointed when I realized it was just a replica and not the real bones). Or a real freaking mummy! Forget just getting better perspective- when I see the bones of a neanderthal child, I feel reverence and awe, and I feel very very small in comparison to the enormity of human history, let alone the universe.

    To me, museums will never be replaceable. The gathering of information will change as technology changes. Sure, I can even sit and look up the Sputnik on my smartphone as I stare at it (yes, I know it was just a replica, but I liked it a lot). But nothing compares to being in the presence of an object that has traveled farther than I could ever dare, or the preserved skeleton of a proto-human that is hundreds of thousands of years old. The other day I saw a very moving picture of a Frenchman who was in tears as apparently Nazis were taking over Paris. That was emotional, but nothing like seeing (and smelling!) piles of shoes from Jewish prisoners that were on display in the Holocaust museum.

    Humans like to connect to each other, and technology makes that possible in some ways better than ever, but it is largely impersonal, especially compared to the sheer human-ness of a museum.

  • Maze Maze
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    Obviously as a person who chose to study and loves History and as a fan of Historical minutia, I believe that museums will always be an important repository and resource for human knowledge. To stand in the same room as a collosal statue of one of the Nubian pharoahs, to examine a kouros up close. To see the products of early technology. It’s a visceral and almost sacred feeling that words and pictures in a book or on a screen will never duplicate.

    I might know what happened to the roof of the Parthenon, but I have never seen the Parthenon. It is an experience, I LUST after. Museums give their visitors a taste of that. The chance to interpret the past for themselves instead of through the lens of another’s thoughts. That opportunity is pricesless and irreplaceable.

  • Maze Maze
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Permalink


  • Grateful_Dead Grateful_Dead
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    I personally think it is so much cooler to see a full sized dinosaur skeleton in person than just a picture, while the I would rather stay at home to research dinosaurs or Egyptian mummies or something it doesn’t compare to going to a museum to see them all in person

  • AkiraVGA
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:30 PM | Permalink

    If you place a museum simply as a place of learning and discovery it could be compared to the internet and then ousted for its limited material and access (damned physics) but there’s more to think about than what can be learned. One quick thing to point out is the internet is full of false information and it’s far more difficult to plant something that is bull$h!t in a museum.

    Of course, a museum serves as a safe house for items of importance to be protected over time and seeing these things with your own eyes is fun in a freak-show kind of way for many curious enough to visit and absorb what is out there. The thought that came to my mind when the question was asked however was about the people visiting rather than the exhibits.

    The professionals of the future (archeologists, artist, architects, biologists, etc) are children and young adults today. Once truly driven in a single direction of learning, I cannot think of anything with more impact and greater access than a museum to act as the MUSE these people need to push further. This is something a computer screen will never accomplish for those destined for greatness.

  • Cit_Yo Cit_Yo
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:23 PM | Permalink

    What differentiates the simple, streamlined information, that we get from the internet or any other kind of media like books or films, from actually being in front of a historical object or work of art is strange and hard to explain. Usually this is called sublime. The sublime is a unique and extremely powerful feeling that may come from anything and cannot be copied, therefore, simply looking at an image or reading about a sublime inducing object or location will never cause the same effect as the real thing.
    That being said, the sublime is extremely subjective, so one thing might be sublime for me but not for you, or it could be equally sublime, but in different ways for each one of us. That would explain why some people find museums to be fascinating while others think it’s boring.
    Bottom line is: looking something up on the internet is not the same as being there and being able to actually see and fell it.

  • Maze Maze
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:55 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if this topic was inspired in any way by the plans for a prospective bookless library in Texas.

  • TheBeerNinja TheBeerNinja
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Permalink

    Museums provide that in person awe that many have already pointed out, but museums are also an introduction to many topics. People can look up something specific or an area of study on the internet, but what about things an individual has never encountered?

    I was fortunate to grow up five miles outside of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute, which is a broad interactive museum with everything from dinosaur bones to a giant three story walk through model of the human heart. They also host visiting exhibitions like the Bodies tour that gained a lot of attention a few years back and they also featured a movie prop collection. The Franklin Institute actually let people crawl into the same Jaws model that ate Robert Shaw and strap into the yellow loader mech that Sigourney Weaver battled the alien queen.

    When visiting with a school, the museum will schedule small workshop demonstrations like the effects of liquid nitrogen on various objects (also exploding them) and Tesla coil electrical shows. Their planetarium gives informative tours of our universe by day and really sweet laser light concerts at night featuring various bands like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, or the Beatles. There are also plenty of single displays scattered throughout the Franklin Institute like a chamber where one can stand inside the center of a vortex and observe how a tornado forms from the inside. One cannot have experiences like these by watching from a computer monitor.

    Back to my original thought, a museum can plant the seed of interest for further exploration into a topic. As a child, my parents took me to museums, art shows, music concerts, theaters, aquariums, and zoos in Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York City with the hope that they would spark a desire to know more about what I had seen. The internet is a large place and knowing where to start can be a daunting task. A trip to a local museum is a good place to find something new to connect with and further explore on the web.

    Also, on a side note @Red Mage, a brontosaurus is not an actual animal, but rather a collection of misassembled bones by some prominent archaeologist in the 1970’s.

    • Maze Maze
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 1:34 PM | Permalink

      Pfft. Next you’ll be casting aspersions on the legitimacy of Piltdown Man.

    • Red Mage Red Mage
      Posted January 19, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

      I’m aware of the history of naming fiasco regarding Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus. Although Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus are not regarded as separate species anymore, brontosaurus is still regarded as a synonym for apatosaurus although for serious scientific writing it is proper to use Apatosaurus. I used brontosaurus in this instance because of the informality of a Weekly Wringer response and brontosaurus’ more common use and familiarity among the non-scientific community.

  • Jerome Flintsteel Jerome Flintsteel
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

    I know I’m late in commenting, but I just can’t keep silent on this one.

    I think all my points have been covered already, but here they are:

    1. Preservation – The actual physical preservation of artifacts is mightily important, and you can’t to that with the Internet. And there’s something about seeing the real thing with your own eyes that pictures can’t replace.

    2. Scale – Standing under the wing of the Spruce Goose and gazing in awe at its massive presence is an experience you can never get from a photo or even a 3D rendering on the Internet.

    3. Presentation – There’s an art to creating a good museum display that is not the same as the art of creating a great history website. It’s just plain different, and the one can’t replace the other.

    4. Experience – Someone commented already something along the lines of “You’re not going to be saying, ‘Remember that time I googled the Eiffel Tower?'” The Internet cannot replace the experience of visiting a museum or historic site.

    5. Social Interaction – These tour guides that really know their stuff are amazing, and can’t be replaced by any article on the Internet. It’s the ability to interact with them, ask questions, have a discussion, that is so valuable.

    Well those are my thoughts on the subject, and I really appreciate everything all you others shared too. Great discussion!

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