The starlings attack!

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
19 July, 2016
Editorial: 13
Fecha de publicación original: 2 abril, 1996

Date of publication: 02/04/1996. Ediorial 013.

They are welcome that bring something with them

Internauts are like flocks of birds from different destinations landing in groups, unaware of their origins, but discovering collective objectives merely because they have flown together whatever their plumage, size or beak shape. We work industriously to elaborate a new concept of ourselves and our surroundings driven by atavistic needs: the creation of a roost that satisfies the essential necessities of the moment, while, at the same time creating moments, corresponding to these essential needs, which will create a satisfactory home ground . In trying to fulfil these unplanned objectives, we resemble a flock of starlings. No one individual leads the group and we have no clear mental image of our surroundings (cyberspace); nevertheless, we move around like parts of a neural network closely connected to one another and our environment. We do not have any clear image of a cyberspace codified by one particular language and thereby making up a cognitive map of our surroundings. We do not create our digital territory by a series of symbolic operations based on this image. Our home territory is created on a non-linear basis. The orderly structures of our neighbourhoods are spontaneously generated just like the final descent starlings make on trees which will shelter them during the night: small groups of the flock swoop down suddenly to roost. Each individual flies to an apparently previously assigned position, which in fact it only takes possession of at the instant in which it lands, in close collaboration with the rest of the flock.

The Internet tree is continuously being recreated. The digital home ground changes shape every day, almost every minute, as internauts occupy existing branches or as new branches are added and modify recently created surroundings. This is, perhaps, one of the big, if not the biggest, obstacle to thoroughly understanding what is happening on the Net, in the widest sense of the word. Until the 60’s, it was unthinkable that any new order could arise without a central agency behind it (the inevitable question was always, “Whose behind it all?”) Today that new order comes into existence daily without any such agency making its appearance. In fact, there is not just one order but a multitude which spring into existence and with seemingly no conductor leading the orchestra. This seriously upsets those ubiquitous people of a deterministic spirit, who ironically enough are prepared to self-immolate themselves in defence of the freedom that the real world order offers.

The construction of new home grounds based on this haphazard “methodology”, which has no clear historical references, has profound repercussions on the way the Net is viewed, both from without and within and from the standpoint of digital illiteracy as well as by those who participate in the formation of these new domestic surroundings. Although an analysis of these perceptions will be the subject of future articles in, it is important to highlight an idea which we have referred to before, namely that the Internet as a specific area of relations constructed around known models for the distribution of information and knowledge, possibly no longer exists.

The contributions of hundreds of starlings, I mean internauts, to the creation of home grounds as ordered structures which are nevertheless unplanned and randomly connected; the way groups form around them; the way innumerable unplanned physical and mental spaces are created, seemingly spawned by the “The planning office for decentralization”; as well as the dynamic consequences of these processes, all seem to indicate that we are no longer dealing with the Internet we once knew. The attack of the starlings has left it seriously altered. The consequences are already apparent and affecting the physical shape of things to come (that is tomorrow or the next day) as well as, above all, the services that are being channelled through its branches, or rather, networks. At the same time we should not lose sight of another crucial piece of information: the starlings that have come to rest in the Internet tree so far are only an advanced party of minute proportions compared to those who are wheeling around on the outside waiting to swoop down on the digital tree. And the tree itself is still only a seedling.