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Trapped By The Web — But For How Long? Take the Kelberman Challenge

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
April 1, 2013

You sit down, turn on the computer, up comes an image, could be anything, a cloud, a koala bear, a video. On the right side of the screen there are more images like it, or almost like it, so you click on one of those, just because … because what? Because it’s there? Because it’s waiting? Because, for no conceivable reason, you suddenly have a yearning for balloon pictures? You don’t plan this, you have no plan, but you keep going, gently pulled by the lure of “next.”

After a cloud of blue balloons comes another, this time they’re red, then yellow and blue, then many colors, then there are more, and more … balloons follow balloons. … You keep clicking, pulled by some invisible lure. A mathematical spider built of ones and zeros hiding in some server in some empty room somewhere — you will never know where — has grabbed on to your brain and is tugging you from cloud to cloud, from clouds to storms, from storms to lightning videos, from lightning videos to lights, from lights to … whatever. … You tell yourself, “Just one more, one or two more, then I’ll stop.” But you don’t stop.

They call this “surfing,” but you’re not surfing — you’re not free. You keep clicking, knowing that you shouldn’t, knowing that you don’t want to … but you DO want to.

Get Me Out Of Here!

You know this feeling, right? Everybody’s been trapped by the Web. But for those of you who like to test themselves, who want know their own strength, I’ve got a proposition for you.

Remember in The Odyssey, how Odysseus had to tie himself to the mast of his ship to keep from throwing himself at the Sirens, whose hauntingly beautiful songs wooed sailors to their deaths? Remember them? I’ve just discovered their Web equivalent.

It’s a subtly addictive, psychologically sophisticated art project, created by Dina Kelberman, who must have studied at the Lay’s Potato Chip School of Addiction. (They had an ad that dared: “Betcha can’t eat just one!”) She has pulled images from the Web and arranged them into a sensuously sly series of related sequences that move, in baby steps, just like your mind does, from one pattern to another.

Stay, Stay, Stay, Stay …

Once you start looking at Dina’s pictures, I warn you: It’s very, very hard to stop. The first ones, trucks kicking up dust, then planes trailing colored clouds, aren’t that grabby, but when you let yourself relax, go slack-jawed and keep clicking, after a minute or two — for me it happened around the variously colored wrestling mats — you find the patterns start pulling at your brain, and you fall into a pleasant, webbyish stupor, clicking, clicking, clicking …

Double warning: It doesn’t end. Well, there is an end, but there are hundreds, maybe a thousand images here. So you are not likely to exhaust the supply.

Third warning: She builds her themes slowly. For example, you’ll see a balloon, then a bunch of balloons, then a sea of balloons, then all blue balloons, then all blue with a few yellow balloons, then more yellows, then all yellows, then fewer balloons. … She moves in small, seductive, surprising little steps so your mind stays hungry; expectations stay heightened. She’s good. The question is, are you better? Can you walk away? I watched for about four minutes (an eon!) before I got mad-at-myself-enough to leave.

How long will she keep you?

Don’t even think about going to the end. You have better things to do. Seriously.

Click here or on the image below to see the project. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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