3. What is Digital?

A lot of people would like you to focus on just the stuff. A lot of faculty don’t want to deal with the messy, technical nature of the internet, a lot of businesses would rather just sell you a service, and Facebook and TikTok just want you to concentrate on how good it feels to connect with people near and far and, who knows, maybe you too can become an influencer and become rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams.

While you will never hear me say content doesn’t matter, and while we will spend most of our time in this course examining all manner of content, it is particularly silly not to know how the internet works and too many do not have a clue what a single click on their screen makes happen, be it a thumb in a smart phone app, a finger tip on a link in a browser on a tablet, or a push of a button on a mouse connected to a desktop. They have no idea that they have just sent information to an unknown computer somewhere in “the cloud” and that that computer will in turn produce a bundle of information meant just for them, addressed just to them, sent through the crowded passages of the internet, tumbling along with other packets, some of which are headed out of the country, perhaps off the continent, and maybe, just maybe, off planet.

Since there can be no digital folklore without the digital, I have collected a number of things for your to view and/or read. View and read them all, allowing the overlap to be a reinforcement for what you already know and being patient when you do not understand something that perhaps it will be explained by another reading or viewing among the following:

  1. Watch Vox’s How Does the Internet Work? from the first season of their Glad You Asked series.
  2. Then read Understand the Flow of a HTTP Request to get a bit more clear idea of the technology, and the terms, involved.
  3. Watch LearnCode.Academy’s How the Internet Works for Developers, a more technical description of the process. (Note this is part one of two: feel free to watch the second one as well.)

Once you’ve watched, read, watched all three of these things, you are ready for your first exploration of the web.

  1. Navigate to the Show Source or Show Page Source feature in your browser. If you are using Safari or Chrome on a Mac, CMD + OPTION + U should do it, but you can also find it in Develop menu, which you have to activate in Safari’s preferences and which is a menu item in the View menu in Chrome. (Windows will have similar options, and I don’t think this is an option on touch-screen browsers – which kind of says something about what they expect of users, doesn’t it?)
  2. Once you’ve done that, scroll to this part of the page and follow the directions in the page’s code.