I asked a question to Herzog. But I got no reply.
Actually, that’s because I didn’t really asked him a question. Following instructions of the event host, I asked a question through Twitter, using a hashtag, that was supposed to be asked on my behalf. Amidst thousands of other tweets with the same hashtag, my question is now lost in the World Wide Web, unanswered.
This was on the UK premiere of Herzog’s film Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World; I watched it at the Barbican Centre, and after the film there was a Q&A session with Herzog himself. Only he was somewhere else, in another theatre, and his interview was being live-streamed to other theatres, including mine. People that were in the same room as he was were able to ask questions in person, while all I could do was send a helpless, lonely tweet:
Look at it! Unanswered, unretweeted, unliked. And most important of all: unquestioned. Just a drifting reverie of the connected world.
The film itself, yes, as any other Herzog’s films, is lovely, not because the geniality of the discussion about the Internet, but because he proves that discussing the Internet is discussing us. Humans.
It turns out that he eventually did answer my question, or at least helped me answer my own question.
In the film, we witness the Internet instilling on people all kinds of emotions and sensations—love, fear and pain, amazement, sadness, awe, inspiration—, and also providing the tool for people to actually make all kinds of things—tracking stars, hacking banks, going to Mars, playing games, creating robots, shaming, bullying, getting rich, getting better, being lonely.
But the Internet doesn’t teach us how to use it, and it doesn’t tell us what to do with it. The how and the what are up to us, humans, to figure out. The film makes this point very clear, and I can’t agree more.
So, back to my question. When answering somebody else’s question about something I honestly cannot remember, Herzog noted “that are some things out there that shouldn’t be abandoned”, meaning crucial practices that existed since before the Internet. He pointed out that it’s still important (and even more now) to do good “old-fashioned thinking, and old-fashioned reading“, so we are able to “create our own filters” essencial to operate in the connected world.
I guess we can get from that how to answer my question: as the Internet doesn’t come with an instructions manual, and as it is absolutely pervasive, and as we came to rely on it instead of just being connected to it in many spheres… Doesn’t it became critical that we take a step outside to be able to see through the very human tools of thinking and reading what seems to be transforming into an ever less human world?
Could this be an agenda for libraries in the 21st century: helping nurturing humans?, or helping rehumanize people, perhaps?
Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World. Dir. Werner Herzog. Magnolia, 2016. Film.