The Nature of Network Experience
In the future, there will be a new form of media by which we experience art. It will change the way we conceive of experience, narrative, and metaphor. I am not going to name this new medium because I have not invented it and don’t yet know how it works, but I have a name for the experience that this medium will provide.
An ordinary experience is linear, sequential, and ordered in time. No matter how hard a narrative tries to escape from these bounds, it cannot literally do so, but only suggest the possibility. But one day the bindings of time will be broken and then networked experience will be within our ken.
In a networked experience, each moment is connected not to a single past and future but to any number of other moments, of which none is necessarily identifiable as future and past. Every moment of a narrative told in this medium connects to other moments both past, future, and counterfactual relative to it.
The moment of the recall of a memory can transform into the moment that the memory records. What is recall one moment is experience the next. Every part of the story might exist in the imagination of some other part.
Associations continually branch out in all directions, and those associations generate more associations, and so on, until it seems like there are many different experiences all coexisting, though not all are simultaneously aware of one another.
Where does all the branching end? How deep does it go? It is possible that each branch of associations is less conscious than the previous until some point where the associations are so dimly ascertained that there is no longer any awareness of it, but on the other hand it might go on infinitely.
The media would also provide us with instant access and familiarity to the references. Each moment would be like reading every sentence of Ulysses at the same time and simultaneously having instant access to all the references present in it.
Each moment will be many versions of itself at once; one moment might be tragic, but it will also simultaneously be a hilarious parody of itself. Everything will exist in all possible ways at once. There will no longer be a single coherent personality to experience it, but rather each moment will partake in all possible personalities.
How can this new experience be conveyed, given that in our universe, time is linear? I believe it will require that the brain of the experiencer be continuously reconstructed and connected to other neural networks that convey the experience.
Perhaps it will begin with a brain that is unconscious as it is prepped with future memories. Then as the experience is played, it will be possible to remember parts that have not been played yet. Then during each moment, the relevant sections of the axuiliary brain are activated to allow access to any esoteric knowledge necessary to understand it.
The moments of the new media are experienced as unordered because there is no sense of future and past, but they must be played in some real order just because it is physically impossible to escape the bounds of time. But building the experience up moment by moment, simultaneously invoking the right associations to all the other moments, which have already been pre-recorded into the mind, will, I believe, result in a truly nonlinear experience.