The whale-wide web of undersea song

Rebecca Giggs' book Fathoms, subtitled "The World in the Whale," is a deep exploration of those largest of Earthlings, from the abject despair of a whalefall to the yawning poetry of whalesong. The whale collects our waste, the victim of both our shores and our metaphors, the giants of an invisible world adjacent to ours. Toshiharu Ito writes,

In contrast to human beings who have invented tools to make things and in doing so invented a culture, whales and dolphins may have established a culture without objects, consisting only of communication. Moreover, their cultural structure may have a property which is sympathetic to the new media society which has begun to surround us. This could be indicating the opening of a new civilization that is totally different to the conventional form.1

Through the aquatic ambience of the ocean, whalesong can be heard over a thousand miles away. It's the whales version of what the musician and musicologist Bernie Krause calls the collective sounds of plants and animals "biophony." Pure connectivity. The history of the internet's spread is largely a story of the breaking down of boundaries. Its environment, such that it is, enables many overlapping connections between what would otherwise be distinct places of business, commerce, recreation, and social activity. The irony of so-called telecommuting is that since physical location no longer matters in the post-geographic workday, it makes it matter even more. The old boundaries are gone.

The irony now is that where we are matters less than the digital wares with which we saturate our selves. On the commute, at school, at work, at home, on a trip, on vacation, visiting friends—internet-enabled smartphones usurp all of these locations with a persistent and precise hold on our attention. "Today, such an information network is gradually permeating into our daily life environment," Ito continues. "In one sense, mankind [sic] which is placed in such an information environment can be compared with the dolphins or whales in a new kind of sea." Lest we forget, Neil Postman's original definition of media ecology not only defined media as environments but also the inverse, the environment as media. 

 1. Toshiharu Ito, "The Future Form of Visual Art," Art & Design, No. 39 (66-69), 1994, 69.

Previously: Man unexpectedly summons Beluga whales by singing, and they sing back