Last night (and in fact even as you read this today) a natural event was augmented and shared worldwide by the Internet.
#SuperBloodMoon highlights how the Internet and the offline world are not so separate, and how it is increasingly difficult to separate the two as separate spheres. Instead, the Internet is augmenting and changing the way millions of people experience the world and experience nature.
#SuperBloodMoon serves to highlight how the distinction between online and offline is not so clear cut. Worldwide millions of people were using a hashtag to share and talk about a natural event, watching it in person, photographing it, editing those photos, and then sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
They were able to experience this natural event both in person, and online, both individually, and as a collective, both through their own eyes, and through the collective eyes and lenses of millions of other people.
And I think that’s neat. The Internet is not a separate world, but increasingly it is a lens through which we experience and know the world around us. It informs us of events and helps us process and experience them. It shapes our experiences of the real world and adds a new layer of understanding, a new way of experiencing the world around us.
This can be seen in many ways, not just through events like #SuperBloodMoon and the sharing of a million blurry photos of the moon, but also through experiences like checking reviews online of places to eat when your out an about, through checking in on foursquare, through games like Munzee and Geocaching that enable people to experience the world around them through a new lense.
Geocaching in particular is worth thinking about. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s essentially a game of hide and seek on a global scale. Users hide boxes full of trinkets in locations around the world, post the GPS details of the place they hid it online along with some clues, and wait for other users to find the boxes. So Geocaching provides a filter through which it’s users are experiencing the world around them. For those in the know, Geocaching augments the natural world; users are simultaneously experiencing the world around them, whilst also experiencing it through the filter of the Internet, and through the experiences of other users. Through access to the treasure-trove of information online, how they know and experience the world around them changes. Walking past a railway station suddenly becomes a different experience when you know a box is hidden somewhere nearby.
In this way, perhaps McLuhan’s overused adage of ‘The Medium is the Message’ is correct; our experiences of the world around us change and alter due to the technology we have to view the messages sent to us. McLuhan’s work suggests that the mediums and technologies we use change how we understand and experiences the world, how we interact with the world, and how we interact in each-other.
Obviously, the internet has changed our methods of interacting, but it also crucially changes how we understand the world, how we view the world, and how we act in the world. Geocaching has changed how we view the landscape around us; for those in the know, the world is viewed through the potential for a geocache to be found anywhere.
Similarly, #SuperBloodMoon has changed how we interact with this natural event, how we record it, and how we view it. Our understanding and experience of it is different thanks to the Internet. We’re simultaneously experiencing it individually and together collectively. And our understanding and experience of it is filtered and augmented through our access to the Internet.
As I’ve written previously, the online and offline world cannot be so easily separated. it’s not a case of either/or, we’re always somewhere on the sale between online and offline. And increasingly, our experiences of the offline is augmented and filtered through the online world.
For many, we no longer live our lives #NoFilter, as the Internet is the filter though which we live and experience our lives.