No, this creature is not some form of Spiderman but is a creature that produces internet broadcasts, a form of streaming media called Webcasts, including those from our own UK parliament. The parliamentary site is produced by Westminster Digital that gives its own definition of Webcasting, which includes describing it as “a way of delivering recorded and live audio and video content over a network”.
Last month the Economist had an article entitled Internet radio: Tuning out on Webcasting and Webcasters.
Actually this form of communication has been around for a while and the words Webcast and Webcasting have already made it into some of the dictionaries. Yourdictionary even has a Wordcast etymology [web + (broad)cast.] and allows you to hear the word spoken, albeit with an American accent. The MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners which is a wonderful dictionary, and very computer-aware, defines Webcasting as “the use of the Internet as a way of broadcasting information using websites”.
Web – a net, as in a spider’s web.
Web – a complicated thing, as in “a web of lies”.
The Web – all things in the www, the World Wide Web of interlinked hypertext documents accessible via the internet.
To Cast – to throw something, as in “to cast a net”.
Broadcast – a form of sowing, firstly seed, but later sound, as in radio, and finally images and sound, as in television.
Narrowcast – like broadcast but only to be received by a few people.
Spiderman – the great web-slinger, having been bitten by a genetically-altered spider, casts his net.
Retiary – relating to the making of webs or nets, or fighting with a net .
Once, many years ago, I wrote a very academic article which focused in at one point within an intricate argument (the twists and turns of which I no longer remember) on a very evocative word, Retiarie, as used by the fascinating seventeenth century author, Sir Thomas Browne. He wrote about “the mathematics of the neatest Retiary Spider” and “the woof of the neat Retiarie spider, which seems to weave without transversion, and by the union of right lines to make out a continued surface, which is beyond the common art of Textury, and may still nettle Minerva the Goddesse of that mystery”. In that article, webs and nets, “la red” (Spanish for net) and the Retiarie of Browne and of his follower (or double) Jorge Luis Borges, take on metaphysical proportions. I think that both of these authors might find it intriguing that that article is available on the web, and you can have a sneak preview by slotting “retiary spider mathematics” into Google. I say sneak because the gatekeeper JSTOR, which describes itself as an “online journal archive”, allows non-authorized internet users (myself included) to see only the first page of the article, unfortunately not the one in which the metaphysical spiders are discussed!
How I hope that the Webcasters of the future will spin their webs freely, and sow them like the lilies of the field. For this new form of communication is “beyond the common art of Textury“. This streaming media of audio and video content broadcast over the internet is a new method of conveying knowledge, and as such I hope that we are all authorized to turn on, tune in and then, if we so wish, to drop out. After all, we might want to cast our own nets just a little bit wider than that of the internet’s new Spiderman!