Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dark matter

The fact that you are reading this probably means that I am not writing the dark matter of the Internet. But I am near it. I can hear it through the walls. I try and stumble to it. But though the dark matter of the Internet is most of the Internet, an endless sea of fruitless attempts, tiny audiences, abandoned projects, forgotten bursts of optimism, and the inconsequential, it is curiously hard to get there. Think of the hobbits trying to get through the Old Forest. They want to go in one general direction but all passage is relentlessly difficult in that direction, the trees and undergrowth thick, an unclimbable ravine steering them slightly away, until they finally end up entirely locked in, resigned to going in a direction they didn't want to go, to what turns out to be to the malevolent heart of the forest, Old Man Willow.

And what is Old Man Willow, the hobbit eating tree, in this analogy?

I don't know. Perhaps it is Google?

Well, that's good enough for me. And I understand. Popularity is a siren song to us all. And though I may head out on a search for obscurity on the Internet, obscurity is located in some miserable, tragically abandoned neighborhoods, crossed with razor wire fencing, great nasty pits in the ground, giant, cracked cement walls with spokes of rebar ugily protruding, and nothing interesting to see. Whereas at the slightest gesture, even at the mere wavering of your will, something like Harry Potter's Knight bus will instantly be there to whisk you back to the bright lights and well tended pathways of the popular Internet, the approved Internet, the vetted Internet.

The dark matter of the Internet is the mysterious background of all the Internet you see, humming behind everything. It's nearly unreachable billions contain treasures and horrors indeed, but, far less glamorously, it is actually mostly made up of the mundane and uninteresting, the forgotten and pointless. It's a fascinating, dim, mysterious world, but not for long. Ten minutes of exposure will leave you exhausted and bored.

Nevertheless you need the darkness to define the light, the trivial to set off the notable, and the mundane, like lottery tickets, to set off the unique, like winning lottery tickets.

Perhaps my description of the dark matter of the Internet is a little murky, indefinite? Yes, of course it is. It's dark matter we are talking about. How is one supposed to describe what can only be seen in absurdly miniscule fractions. I have deduced the multitudinous dark matter by its ripple effect on the Internet, by human nature, and by what hovers just beyond the frame of my screen, shaping what it is that I do see. It is negative space, damaged by light out of itself. My looking at it is an act that disturbs it and starts to change it.

I have been thinking about this for days. I did a variety of Google searches and started wondering: What if when Google comes back with its millions of results I went to, say, page 100,000? But I found I could only go ahead about four pages at a time. I found an experimental search engine called Million Short which removes the million most popular websites from its search results. Still operating on basic rules of popularity it surprisingly was only a small assist in my journey to the dark matter. I found Petit Tube, a site that will show only YouTube videos no one or almost no one has seen. This is very much an excellent path to where I'm trying to get to, and, though useful and strange and somewhat interesting in its own right, it would be ideal if it involved websites. I'm still working on tracking down something like that.

But as interested as I am in the dark matter of the Internet, it is a largely theoretical interest. Besides the fact that it disappears some even as I find it, it can also be pointedly meaningless, completely without ambition, and boring. Ten minutes of searching through detritus is as much as I can take. I am happy to replace some of my Internet exploration with that, but what about when those ten minutes are up?

I have been considering alternatives. I hear good things about "books".


  1. Thank you so much for your useful exhibitions on the nature of the internet. Awhile ago you told of how the two inch(?) surface of the internet is composed of colourful candy wrappers and some such. This blog of yours is quality work. Yesterday's example of the contradictory usage of "a healthy portion" is a fine example of your restraint and warm modesty. I don't think a better blogger could trot that out and turn it into some sort of show horse. Perhaps what I am getting at is that there is no better blogger.

    1. Thank you so much. The modesty was an experiment since, as you know, I'm very fond of warm, hyperbolic, self-aggrandizement. Anyway, such a comment means quite a lot to me, so thank you again.


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