When I think about the gap between raw information and its numinous life on the screen -- something I try to avoid doing, because it is a dark and difficult thought, more than a little like contemplating the age of the universe -- the whole sensation has a strangely religious feel to it, that sense of the mind trying to reach around a vibrant (and convenient) metaphor to the wider truth that lies beyond. Cathedrals, remember, were "infinity imagined," the heavens brought down to earthly scale. The medieval mind couldn't take in the full infinity of godliness, but it could subjugate itself before the majestic spires of Chartres or Saint-Sulpice. The interface offers a comparable sidelong view onto the infosphere, half unveiling and half disappearing act. It makes information sensible to you by keeping most of it from view -- for the simple reason that "most of it" is far too multitudinous to imagine in a single thought.

Steven Johnson,
Interface Culture (HarperEdge, 1997)


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