“Wasting time on the Internet” is a new creative writing course being offered up next semester by the University of Pennsylvania, although I’m pretty sure it’s also taught at the Cannabis Career Institute as a prerequisite to everything. Here are alternative course names I’d propose for the UPenn class: “I Spent How Much Tuition on This?!”, “ ‘Writing Will Never Be This Rewarding Again,” and if they were in a meta-type mood, “Wasting time on ‘Wasting time on the Internet.’ ”
“We spend our lives in front of screens, mostly wasting time: checking social media, watching cat videos, chatting, and shopping. What if these activities — clicking, SMSing, status-updating, and random surfing — were used as raw material for creating compelling and emotional works of literature? Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook? Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed? Could we reframe the internet as the greatest poem ever written? Using our laptops and a wifi connection as our only materials, this class will focus on the alchemical recuperation of aimless surfing into substantial works of literature. Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs.”
Okay. Whatever the “alchemical recuperation,” the class’s instructor, Kenneth Goldsmith, looks perfectly suited to teach the class. See below.
In case you don’t know who Goldsmith is — and you’d be in the minority if you didn’t, since contemporary poetry is all the rage — he’s a decorated poet who once tried to print the entire internet in an art project deftly titled “Printing the Internet,” because as Goldsmith asserts, and all of us know, the whole, entire internet is worthy of being printed. Totally.
Goldsmith told Motherboard’s Jason Koebler, who discovered the class:
“I’m very tired of reading articles in the New York Times every week that make us feel bad about spending so much time on the internet, about dividing our attention so many times. I think it’s complete bullshit that the internet is making us dumber. I think the internet is making us smarter. There’s this new morality built around guilt and shame in the digital age.”
“We’re trying to wrench an artistic product out of that state of distraction that’s naturally created by talking on the phone with someone and surfing the internet at the same time, or by watching a video and chatting. That’s the desired state in the class — even half being there is too generous. I want their attention across tablets, phones, screens, music. I want it divided many, many times.”
So there you have it. The next time you get flak for “wasting time” on the internet, point them to this article and tell them that some people pay out the ass for that sort of education.
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