Friday, October 07, 2005

Visitors among us

I get a kick out of watching Web site stats. A little thrill runs through me when I see my small but worldwide audience, not out of vanity but because it proves just how different the world is.

Cultural evolution does not change at a steady rate. In the 20 years from 1900 to 1920, the world saw an enormous leap in technology. The horse fell by the wayside. Aviation technology established itself as a presence, if one only for the rich.

The next 20 years, to the start of the next world war, was more or less static. Inventors started on many inventions that would have an impact, but these devices did not have much of an impact on everyday life - television, for example. Part of the problem was the Depression, of course, but don't underestimate a lack of war. Sure, Japan romped through Asia and Italy tried to take on Ethiopia, but for the most part, the wealthy nations did not wage war and in fact signed treaties meant to restrict the technology of warfare - battleships, for instance. Ironically, the battleship treaties led Germany to develop the intriguing pocket battleships, but that's another story....

World War II was the crucible of the greatest advances of the 20th century. Radar, computing, electronics, jets, rockets, women in the workforce - this war hastened so much. But was 1960 so different from 1950? Not really. Aircraft were bigger and cars were pointier, but life in 1960 essentially was the same as it had been ten years earlier. In the next ten years, rock music exploded, as did disaffection and drug use.

But look at us today, and compare us to the mid-1970s. We use CDs, but we listen to the Beatles. We cook frozen dinners, but we do it in the microwave. We watch Giligan's Island, but we watch on HDTV on more cable channels than we know what to do with.

In the last 30 years, the only real cultural motion has been in computers and the access to global peers. I could take one of my students - 19 years old, born in 1987 - and I could drop that person in 1995. She wouldn't feel one iota out of place. She'd feel perfectly at home in 1985, but she'd miss her IM chat and she'd have to worry about long-distance charges on the phone. But that's 20 years ago.

Take a person in 1975 and drop them into 1955 and there'd be a huge culture shock. Place a 1960 person into 1940? Forget about it.

We've had a static culture for 25 years or so. The Clash is on the radio and seems right at home. The only difference is communication.

That's why I like looking at site stats. It shows we've changed.

I also like looking at the stats because they're like a puzzle to interpret. Some of the key stats for this blog:

Alligators in a Helicopter is my top referrer, with 12 of the last 100 referrals (a referral is when a visitor arrives through a click on a link). Screenwriting Life is second, with six.

A Technorati search for "Serenity" produced five visiting clickers, and a search for TriggerStreet produced one.

The most amusing stats are the Web searches that lead people to this blog. Among them:

• casey schroeder gmail
• elvi return policy
• videotron mail relay
• videotron smtp server
• hurricanes story webs
• blue's clues episode inside locked trunk

I love that last one.

Most of my visitors come from El Monte, Calif. I suspect those visits are mostly Scott the Reader, and that the city isn't strictly correct. If not, all you El Monteans should comment here. Second place is Houston, and I suspect that is my brother - all of them are Mac OS X entries from the same ISP. If you read this and you're in Houston and you're not my brother, speak up!

I also have a reader at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is sort of encouraging. And an Inktomi spider visits me once a day, so I can feel important.


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