Hey, you! Get off of my cloud. Don’t hang around, baby, two’s a crowd… ~The Rolling Stones
9.21.09 Though I generally consider myself a cautious realist, it seems that when it comes to the hurricane of new technology that has swept the world in the last few decades, I am a down right cynic. Though I cannot and do not wish to deny the marvelous benefits of these technologies, I also cannot put aside my feelings of unease when it comes to the side effects of cloud computing. I am as guilty as the next college student of wasting away countless hours on Facebook, Hulu, and YouTube. I enjoy the benefits of GoogleDocs and my school’s Blackboard system. But at the end of the day, these very services are leading to an unfortunate phenomenon that I like to call the Diva Bubble.
The Diva Bubble places two basic constraints on the average occupant: the first is the over-personalization of media and entertainment, mentioned in Nicholas Carr’s article, The Big Switch, and the second is the inability to focus on other people. To break this down, because of the rise of cloud computing, more online services are available to more people. These services are entrapping us in only the news we want, keeping us in contact with all the friends we want, allowing us to post countless blogs about whatever subjects we want, and giving us hundreds of other choices that are distancing us from what we find distasteful. If all you find distasteful is ugly clothes and brussels sprouts, this might not be a big deal. If however, you find genocide, national debt, and global warming distasteful, you’ll likely choose to ignore these and focus on pleasanter things (like brussels sprouts).
Due to cloud computing, the majority of computer users have access to Facebook and Twitter. These sites allow a user to enlighten his friends about anything going on in his life. He can update it once a year or once a minute. He can talk about the War in Iraq or the consistency of his spaghetti sauce. Whatever he wants to comment on, he can blast to an entire network of people with one click. In a closely related vein, GoogleBlogSpot allows the user to write thousands and thousands of words on thousands and thousands of topics. While very useful for the spread of knowledge, what the users of these sites often fail to recognize is that not all knowledge needs to be spread.
Once the privilege of publishing a book of poems or hanging a masterpiece painting in the Louvre was reserved for the truly gifted. Now, anyone can write a 2,000 word blog on the color of his couch and, when he gets 15 replies to his post, feel every bit as special as George Orwell when Time chose his novel Animal Farm as one of the 100 best English novels of the 20th Century. The same goes for the teenager who wants to feel like John Lennon, so he messes around on GarageBand for half an hour and then posts his music to his MySpace page. While hyperbolical, this idea shows the dangers of entering the Diva Bubble. It is disheartening to think that because of the opening up of public space to so many “artisans”, we might perhaps be missing out on the next Picasso or Shakespeare.
Everyone has something to share, and it is important for individuals to feel valued by their peers. However, some corner of the world must still be reserved for truly special human achievements. After all, if everyone is special and unique, no one will have time or energy to pay attention to all the other special and unique people in the world.