It is one of the more durable myths of the Internet and other communication technologies that in future we will never need to leave home. There we will work. And the rest of our life experiences can come to us by wire too, whether as passive couch-potatoes or active couch-voyeurs, always experiencing the world synthetically.
Architects are more likely than most to see through this line of argument, to see that the synthetic and the real are complementary rather than alternatives. Take buildings. The synthetic experience of building coverage in magazines has its own virtues. It is something different, not a failed substitute for a real visit. The synthetic and the real both add to the sum of our experience. To borrow terms from logic, the future is both/and, not either/or.
Which brings us to the Tate Modern, opening next week. It has announced the launch later this year of a joint venture website with MoMA in New York. The aim is to complement real art experiences, not to replace them with virtual visits in order to save the time and effort of going and looking at the originals. Nicholas Serota describes the Web approach as providing 'deeper access to the best visual culture around the world.'
Published plans are sketchy at the moment, though there is significant investment in a site also intended to make money, which will be covenanted to the galleries. There will be merchandising, of course, but potentially also access to online lectures, catalogues, criticism, research resources and digital-video tasters for shows. Your web-phone could allow you to check what's on, find good times to visit crowded exhibitions, and receive reminders that shows are nearing their closing date. The ideas are just beginning to roll. The Internet promises to be a couch-enhancing experience.
Barrie Evans is editor of www.ajplus.co.uk