Internet exploring: the rise of the 'digitraveller'

Sarah Morning

Not long ago the internet was conceptualised as an information superhighway; something that led us on a very concrete, solid, definite route across the digital landscape. Its purpose was to allow easy access to information and create the quickest, most efficient way to get where we wanted.

Then, something happened. Somewhere, the highway stopped. It broke up into a mess of tarmac, rubble and dust, unable to go any further into digital space. Suddenly we realised that the way forward could no longer be visualised as a solid superhighway, but as an uncharted landscape, with no marked paths. By 2006 the 'information superhighway' was history. Wikipedia (part of the Web 2.0 phenomenon that arguably killed the term) defines it as a 'now obsolete term' once used 'to describe ways of expanding the internet beyond its then current state'. Today we find ourselves on the edge of a gigantic unmapped digital landscape. Google has 270,000 references for 'new media landscape' – and thanks to Rupert Murdoch we talk of digi-immigrants and digi-natives, explicitly referencing people's relationship to a country. And it is not just within the media that this metaphor is being touted. Writers visualise the digital world as a landscape. 'This is a virtual world', Jeanette Winter-son tells us in The.Powerbook: 'This is a world inventing itself. Daily, new land-masses form and then submerge. New continents of thought break off from the mainland. Some benefit from a trade wind, some sink without a trace. Others are like Atlantis – fabulous, talked about, but never found.'