Tiffany Lee Brown on 25 Jan 2001 21:29:33 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> The End of an Era: the Internet Hits Ground

>What all of these events have in common, and why it is justified to think
>of them as closing a specific period in the history of the Internet, is
>that they all force us to recognize that the Internet is not a space
>separate from society. On the contrary, as the Internet becomes more and
>more integrated into everyday life, it starts to resemble, well, everyday
>life. As established institutions recognize the value of the Internet in
>expanding their activities, they are throwing in their entire wait to make
>the technology adapt to them.
>How poorly founded those early visions of the Internet as a distinct entity
>were is revealed by the fact that hardly anyone of the early visionaries
>even tries to defend their views. Where is Barlow now? What happened to
Kevin Kelly?

speaking simplistically: in the early days, even the very late era 
"early days" (let's say anything through 1994), being online kinda 
meant you were a weirdo. a freak. a geek.

the Internet *was* a space "separate from society," and it both bred 
and attracted people who were "separate" in some significant way from 
society. why else would they be communicating online, or sharing 
files, or gaming, or making utopian plans via modem, instead of 
hanging out with "society"? here in the states, that might mean 
geeking out all night on a chat board instead of drinking another 
beer & watching the football game. or working on a really cool Gopher 
server instead of shopping with the girls -- enter your favourite 
cultural cliche' here.

geeks who got into computers and various scientific pursuits 
incomprehensible to the layperson: "separate from society." writers 
and other verbally-obsessed people, who finally found a place in the 
modern world where the written word still mattered: "separate from 
society." researchers and librarians, seekers and caretakers of 
arcane information: "separate from society." the disabled or 
housebound, whose modem might literally become a lifeline: "separate 
from society." and who but a relatively freakish person is going to 
write a Declaration of Independence for a nonphysical plane?

[sidebar: i think Barlow rocks in many ways, but that Declaration was 
*his* and did not necessarily represent the online population or the 
old guard. using it as an emblem of the dying Internet breed may not 
be appropriate. speaking of which: did ANYONE ever buy into the 
whacked Kellyesque new economy view? i mean did they REALLY believe 
it? or did it just provide a bunch of groovy mumbo-jumbo with which 
to bullshit other people, to verbally bully them into buying your 
virtual used car?]

i recall discussing the apparent trajectory of Internet culture with 
the lovely St.Jude some five or six years ago.  while she liked the 
idea of parallel underground Internet cultures (complete with 
currency, of course), she also considered that as the Net inevitably 
grew more and more popular, the freaks, geeks, artists, and 
fringe-dwellers would do what we have always done: hide in the 
corners or out on the edges, sending out smoke signals to each other. 
the medium itself used to keep the normals at bay, but they have long 
since colonized the space. it reminds me of Ireland, where wave after 
wave of invaders would arrive, conquer, and end up meshing their own 
cultures with that of the Irish, rather than squashing it.

but this is the Internet. we're unlikely to run out of space. all the 
cultures can co-exist here. the only real crash here is financial. 
the only cultural crash is one of perception. i think John's 
statement that the Internet interprets censorship as damage & routes 
around it still holds; likewise, as "prosumers" of Netinfo, it is up 
to us to route around those aspects of Net culture that now resemble 
"everyday life" just a little too closely and boringly.

so don't shop, don't let your kids use your credit card 
to shop on; instead, use the cool nooks and crannies of 
the Net just as you did before the Internet was "integrated into 
everyday life" by the mass populace. (does "integrated into everyday 
life" mean the same thing as "co-opted by the marketing weasels"? hm! 
must think on that one.) work on a site for cheap or free, just 
because you love the subject matter. click through some little 
Webring for an hour, just to prove to yourself that the kids are 
still making sites and saying what's important to them; who cares 
whether they don't represent the height of artistry or elegant 
usability? it still embodies the spirit of creation and connection. 
and the old Net culture is still vibrant -- just look at the open 
source movement.

>What is even more revealing is that none of the investors who
>got burned by the decline of the tech-stocks has been complaining publicly.
>Somehow, it seems, everyone knew that all the promises were too good to be
>true and those who lost money are, perhaps, too ashamed to admit it. Or
>would you admit that you bought shares when they were $104
>1/2  in last March now that they are worth only $3 1/2?

former Wired editor Brad Wieners 'fessed up about this a bit in my 
'zine, SIGNUM. i formerly repubished an editorial from our "cyber 
revolution" retro theme issue here on Nettime, so i don't wanna 
over-flog the URL... but if you want to see someone dealing with 
these issues honestly, read Brad's article. SIGNUM is at and will soon move to


1/25/2000: whoops! my email client ate all my mail today. if
you said something important & i did not respond, please re-send.

tiffany lee brown * * editrix, SIGNUM
it's a webzine - go read it! *
3439 NE Sandy Blvd, Box #513 * Portland,  Oregon  97232  USA

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