Why are there so many shots of power lines in anime? I confess I’m probably going to blow money on this heat-regulating coffee mug. Why shame doesn’t scale. When we participate in surveys, we may overstate our negative feelings. Frankenstein was published in a small anonymous edition of 500 copies; it became famous because of theatrical adaptations a few years later. A self-propelled nose-wheel for airplanes could dramatically reduce their energy use while taxiing. “I Pretended To Be Emily Dickinson on an Online Dating Site.” A 2,000-year-old twenty-sided die. My old piece on “how to tell when a robot has written you a letter” — inside the world of automated generation of pen-written letters. Behold Radio.garden, a fun globe you can spin and tune into live radio broadcasts from around the world. How to build a new internet.
A map of the Internet from 1969. Some thoughts on the 10X coder. “Braitenberg’s Law” notes that it’s easy to understand a complex robot or piece of code if you wrote it; if someone else did, it’s insanely hard. “Taking turns is a primary expression of justice”: An essay on the moral dimensions of phys ed, from 1922. Meet the Girl Scouts who are earning cybersecurity badges. Why Grenfell Tower burned. My favorite piece of 19th-century punctuation is the “colash”, a colon followed by a m-dash, like this … “:—”. My New York Times Magazine feature on computational thinking and “The Minecraft Generation” from a year ago; and a podcast with me talking about it.
Who still uses the term “information superhighway”?
It’s the most 90s coinage ever. It was an attempt by boomer journalists — whose chief technology of teen liberation was the automobile, but who by the 90s were solidly middle-aged — to find a metaphor for digital networks that made sense to them. Hey guys! Let’s all get in our, uh, cybervehicles! We can roll down the windows and go cruisin’ on the Highway of Information.
As “the Internet” and “the web” took off, though, eventually people stopped using the “information superhighway”.
Or did they? In The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance analyzed Donald Trump’s fascinatingly incoherent use of “the cyber”, and along the way she noted one cohort that seems to constantly use dated digital slang: Politicians.
So it made me wonder — who’s the last politician to have uttered the phrase “information superhighway” in the Congressional Record?
Step forward, Erik Paulsen.
A reverse-chron search of the Congressional Record finds that Paulsen used the phrase on July 17, 2014, speaking in support of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.
To give Paulsen credit, it seems like he might be using the phrase specifically because of its historic echo of the 90s: “… grown the information superhighway to what it is today.”
Trivia: “Information superhighway” has been uttered 291 times in the Congressional Record. Interestingly, other recent-ish uses seem to be when politicians are talking about net neutrality — possibly because there, the highway metaphor is useful; it evokes tolls, fast lanes vs. slow lanes, etc. So maybe the phrase has got some life in it yet.
Me, I’m a fan! “Information superhighway” is much more metal than “the Internet” or “the web”, which are functional but now rather lifeless. Given my druthers, I actually prefer the full, florid coinage of “the global information superhighway”. I have been waging a dogged campaign on Twitter to revive it; I am failing.
(That photo above is from the Creative-Commons-licensed Flickr feed of Rep. Louise Slaughter.)