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Benjamin Russell

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Monday, September 13, 2010


How do we search? Distractedly.

This is old news, but timely at the beginning of the school year as we refocus on making sure we're aware of how we search the web: Google has an automatic function as part of YouTube that allows you to make a short movie of what you search for.

One of the more entertaining aspects of the web has always been the tangential nature of hyperlinks. An article or website can link out to various related content which can send you spiraling out, far away from your original intent, your original search object (my friends call this "falling down the wiki hole", which references perhaps the densest collection of unrelated links as well as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). Google (other search engines are available) further increases this, not by providing hyperlinks that move you away from what you meant to look for, but by providing one with the effortless ability to look at results, become dissatisfied, and try searching from a different or related angle. Wrong results will spark a secondary and often unrelated thought, and zoom! you're off. And the amount of time it takes before you circle back around to what you'd originally intended to do can be considerable.

The above video is a fun little frolic I constructed to describe a train of thought that I, hypothetically, might once have had. It goes a little like this (bear with me):
In the first book of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shae's Illuminatus Trilogy, the bit I best remember was an extended sequence where a character, in order to prove the numerological significance of the numbers two and three, goes on a rant listing all the incidents wherein the number twenty-three occurs in semi-significant places (this was years before the film The Number 23). This sequence introduced me to the meaning behind the phrase "23 skidoo" (which I can never remember how to spell), which was used by the villain character The Terror in the FOX Kids animated show The Tick in order to show just how old he was. There was a brilliant gag in that episode of The Tick where The Terror talks about how he built a ray-guy, which turned everyone it touched into a gas station attendant with a nametag that read "Ray", which I think is hilarious, and makes me think of that record album with the Flash Gordon raygun on the cover that I can never remember who it's by. Which reminds me of the great Threadless t-shirt with rayguns, which reminds me how often Star Wars references show up in Threadless designs, and whether I should buy that one shirt (which now seems to be out of print) for my brother, who loves Star Wars, but never seems to use the totally awesome Yoda backpack I got him for Christmas a few years ago.

Phew! What sort of stream-of-consciousness tangents does the web allow you to go on? Feel free to make your own search story and share!

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