By Troy Headrick
To be human is to have limitations. Some of our limitations are physical. For example, in my case, I know for a fact that I cannot run a marathon, nor can I lift a barbell loaded with two hundred pounds over my head (even though I’m fairly fit). We are also intellectually limited. I am, for instance, certainly nowhere near the smartest person in the world, and my inability to do many kinds of mathematical problems is (and always has been) terribly embarrassing. Of course, I’ve just scratched the surface of the kind of ways I’m limited and how those limitations affect my life.
Here’s the thing about me though: I’m terribly stubborn and determined. I’ve always been the sort of person who has striven to overcome limitations, expand my horizons, and augment my skills. You might be that kind of person too.
Until very recently, we were all limited by space and time. None of us could be in two places at exactly the same moment. Neither could we move forward and backward in time at will. Again, notice that I said “until very recently.” Today, these limitations have been overcome, and it’s the internet that has helped us transcend them.
Before I demonstrate how to transcend space and time, I’m going to warn you that you’ll need to listen with an open mind and ready yourself to think imaginatively as we move into the next part of this blog. As a matter of fact, the imagination is probably the greatest tool we have at our disposal when it comes to getting beyond those things that limit us, that hold us back. Just think about that for a moment. The human imagination is a tool. We use it to visualize things that don’t currently exist, to reinvent ourselves, to speculate about what others are thinking and why they act the way they do, to imagine what life is like in others places, to solve all sorts of problems (like how to go about transcending space and time), and so on and so forth. When we imagine, we are, for all intents and purposes, dreaming with our eyes open, creating a reality of our own making.
Okay, here goes. Click on this link. It will take you to a webcam that is livestreaming a square that’s located in the old town of Warsaw, Poland. You may need to click the arrow in the middle of the frozen image to activity the livestream. After that, maximize the screen so that the scene fills your monitor.
I currently live in San Antonio, Texas, so I’m actually seeing (in real time) life taking place in a part of a city located in a country that is halfway around the world from where I’m sitting. But by using technology and my imagination, by watching the people strolling along the cobblestone streets of Warsaw, I am entering into that world, into the lives of those I’m observing. I am both aware of myself sitting in front of my computer in Texas and playing the role of voyeur. I wonder what those Poles moving into and out of my sight are thinking and talking about. While I’m watching, one individual, a youngish blond woman, appears to be thinking about something. She pauses and then turns around and hurries off in the opposite direction. The speed with which she’s moving makes is look like she might have forgotten to do something. I am living my life and this stranger—thousands of miles away from me—is living hers. The internet has magically connected us. It has transported me across space and time. Though it is morning in San Antonio, I see it is early evening in Poland. The scene in front of me is taking place both right now and in my future.
I highly recommend that you begin finding interesting webcams livestreaming on the internet. You could start with three of my favorites: this one in Italy, this one in a bar in Thailand, and this one of a town in Hungary.
As you watch these, think about the implications of what you’re seeing. You have been transported. You are both an observer, and by thinking about those people you’re watching, a kind of participant in their lives.
While I was preparing to write this blog, I showed some of my favorite livestreaming webcams to a colleague. (She was not aware that such webcams existed.) After looking at them for a minute, she told me they made her feel “weird,” a little “creepy,” and that they “boggled” her mind.
What do you think about this blog? Do you happen to have a favorite livestreaming webcam you’d like to share with us?
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.
13 thoughts on “A Fun Way to Transcend Space and Time”
Reading this after watching Dark is especially meaningful. The concept of time is indeed interesting and recent technology is making it interesting.
Hi. How’s your visit in Turkey going? I also think it feels a little like some kind of modern magic to be able to see things happening in faraway spots in real time. When was ever such a thing possible in the past, prior to the internet? I’m not familiar with Dark. What is Dark? And yes, time is fascinating. The advent of the internet is going to change us a lot–in ways we can’t even begin to predict. For one, it’s going to change the way we EXPERIENCE time. Thanks for the comment.
I am in Germany now, but I went to Turkey briefly and will go afterwards too! Dark is a German drama on Netflix on the concept of time. How it may not be linear, as we thought.
Germany is a great country. I lived in Poland for two years when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer years ago. I actually like many parts of Europe and have traveled extensively throughout the continent. The last time I was in Germany, I stayed in Frankfurt. The city surprised me. It had a very vibrant restaurant life there. Of course, there were lots of places that served Turkish food, but I even found a Romanian restaurant and a Croatian eatery very close to my hotel.
I think Dark sounds interesting. I’ll try to watch it.
I have been in Cologne for 5-6 weeks now, and I traveled a lot so far. I like the country as well! I have two more weeks to enjoy it. As for Frankfurt, most of my relatives are there. I have been there. The Turkish population is dense indeed!
You should definitely watch Dark. It is just in its second season, so very watchable.
Also, I agree that the internet is going to change us!
Don’t books do the same?
Fiction and non-fiction, both.
Book certainly do transport us in all sorts of ways. But it’s the visual element that makes internet reality–I think I just coined a new phrase–so powerful and strange. It’s the fact that you can see things in such remote places actually happening in real time. That’s just so weird–and even a little unsettling. Thanks for the comment.
Hmmh. I understand now.
Hi, Avi. I actually think books are wonderful. They hold the collected wisdom of the ages. But the internet is changing us so much. It’s also changing how we think about space and time. Never before (before the advent of the internet, I mean) have we been able to see things occurring in such faraway spots in real time. I’m convinced that this is a kind of modern magic.
I want to thank all those who are reading, liking, and responding to my piece.
I used to look at livecams fairly often – oh, way back in the dial up days. I would hope to see certain people, which was patently absurd – but still, I looked. It did feel awkward, in that there’s a difference between looking up and seeing someone watch you tie your shoe, and looking up and knowing that anyone, literally anywhere, could be seeing that on camera. That feeling of vulnerability is why I stopped looking at those cams. I also didn’t want to see anything… distressing.
Is it a neat way to look at the space/time issue? Absolutely! It’s also a terrific tool for people who might be somewhat agoraphobic to start visually setting a scene. I can see where it would also help set designers. There are some interesting concepts you’re toying with here, even if, in my own mind, I feel like I’m violating implied privacy.
One of my colleagues also expressed a weird feeling about looking at webcams. Doing so made her feel a little like a voyeur. I just find it so fascinating that we can, via a webcam, see things happening virtually anywhere in the world in real time, with absolutely no time lag, which means we could literally witness a murder taking place if we tune in at the right time. Until the advent of the internet nothing like this was at all possible. I do agree this raises many interesting philosophical questions. On the privacy issue, I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to have old-fashioned privacy as we used to understand it. Just try to remain invisible and private in the internet age! The ultimate question is how is the internet going to change us, affect human interactions, alter the way we think of time and space, and so on. Thank you for your comments. They always provoke thought so I look forward to hearing from you with each blog I post.