Loon balloons & remote internet.

I’ve returned from Vivacation in the beautiful remote north woods of Minnesota where the loons are on the lake, loons can be heard, and Internet connectivity is scarce, sparse, or both. It’s truly lovely. (Well, once you get acclimated.  In my opinion, loons sound like the start of a horror movie; I’m always sure Bigfoot is near.)

In my news feed this morning, the ‘thing to know’ is that Google has a secretive lab working to bring internet connectivity to remote locations.  Google calls it Project Loon.  Some day soon, a Vivacation could include the sound of loons on the lake and floating Google X Loon Balloons overhead. Synchronicity. Beautiful.

Google, Division X, Project Loon brings information to a “… rural schoolhouse that had never been able to receive high-quality Internet signals.” Cassidy was able to help a teacher “supplement that day’s lesson with Google maps and Wikipedia. … Later when Cassidy spoke to the kids, they shared their goals: One wanted to be an engineer; another, a doctor.” (Project Loon. The article is worth the read.))

Engineers and doctors.  Not unlike the kids who currently enjoy full internet access to all the questions and answers anytime all the time. Although Project Loon is developing under the guise of “high-quality Internet signals”, we are not fooled. The curation of the high-quality Internet signals and free-flowing data gives internet access its value.  It is the teacher looking over the shoulder or directing classroom access that shapes all that information into knowledge.

But back to me.  Here is what the sketchy internet connection interrupted on Vivacation:

  • Facebook.
  • Clickbait.  Michael Phelps raced a shark.
  • The New York Times. Although wait, what? Evidently Michael Phelps versus shark was a real thing. Really? Ugh.
  • Access to the Viva blog.

In the absence of continuous connectivity, it became painfully obvious that the Internet is crack for an information junkie. Attention span? In an attention second.

And then I read three books. In hand. Beginning, middle, end. A vacation dream.

So please forgive me for being a cynic about connecting everyone everywhere all the time. People living in remote locations might not need or want an Internet connection. What is the purpose of the Internet? Connectivity?

Most of the time we like to watch who and what we know.  I watched a documentary in the early 1990’s of a small remote French village that was given a free local-access channel by a cable company that wanted to expand.  It turned out that the villagers were most interested in watching the local channel. They liked to watch each other. (A favorite featured two women overcome by a bottle of wine while cooking. Billed as a cooking show, it looked like a drinking game.)

Are we arrogant in thinking that remote peoples benefit from our presence? That they need our inclusion? Are we using technology to promote Western Civilization? And how ethnocentric is technology to Western Civilization? If we consider education, what does a remote villager need to know? What do they want? What could we offer them? An introduction to electronic attention deficit disorder?

Well then! Get your Googles on and welcome to my world!