This is not about Star Wars, unless you’re into that
The chase is on to apprehend the greatest assemblage of names the galaxy has ever seen: Chewbacca. Luke Skywalker. Obi-Wan Kenobi. Han Solo. (Seriously, George, where did you dream up these names?) Their ship, the Millenium Falcon, is about to be snapped up by a couple of imperial cruisers, and Jedi hopeful Luke Skywalker’s quest looks to be short-lived. But the swaggering proprietor – smuggler – of the Falcon knows it can go faster than the cumbersome Empire ships. They just have to buy a little time for the ship computer to provide navigational coordinates through “hyperspace”, so they don’t just “fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova”. The calculations are completed, they PUNCH IT, the stars momentarily stretch with an incomprehensible acceleration, and they escape, so that the space opera may continue.
There was no internet in 1977, when Star Wars was first released, but the jump into hyperspace could be a visual metaphor for the instantaneity we expect of our internet experiences. We tap a few buttons and – PUNCH IT – we have access to any information, anywhere, any time. The experience of using the internet is a little different to the hyperspace journey of the Millenium Falcon, since generally we pull the information towards us. We remain in the same place. It is the information that moves quickly, not us. Or information is pushed to us, whether we asked for it or not. But the internet experience is similar to the hyperspace jump in one other critical way: We need a computer to do it for us.
What is it that we actually need from the internet? The information? That was what we needed to start with. But now it seems we have another need (or dependency?) on top of that: instantaneity. Everything right now, all the time.