[WebCultures] Post to webcultures list?
sondheim at panix.com
Thu Sep 4 04:52:54 CEST 2014
A few interspersed comments - I found Bruce's material rather brilliant -
On Mon, 1 Sep 2014, Bruce Sterling wrote:
> Is there a distinction between dead media that can be reanimated and those
> that can?t, and which category will the web go into?
It depends on what's meant by reanimation, how the digital is parcelled,
obviously what protocols are at work. I'd think the web as surface
skittering would fit into the former, reanimation.
> *It belongs in the category of the dead. The "web" isn't a single gizmo or
> a protocol. The web a host of small pieces loosely joined that continually
> flake off the imaginary central mass and irrevocably decay.
Do they decay or do they fall apart? I think of decay in relation to
corrosion, the abject; I think of falling apart as a cleavage into a
constantly (re)formalized syntactics.
> *Imagine that you miraculously had the entire World Wide Web from 2004,
> preserved on a single server. You could boot that "web" up, hook up some
> modern wireless broadband and tell the population to have at it. Would it
> "live" again, would it be "re-animated"? No. It would be just as dead as
> Olia Lialina's replica of GeoCities.
Depends what you mean by "dead"; it's not de-extinction. It can be
reanimated in an other form, and that would have its own context.
> *One can build a kerosene-fired magic lantern that works identically to the
> old dead pre-cinematic devices, but the Web was already built on a compost
> of earlier dead stuff: ARPANET, gopher, Wais, Web 1.0 with its static web
> pages, etc etc. They won't come back even if the machinery functions -- the
> social ecosystem around the tech is gone, so it's like trying to revive the
> dead 8 track tape.
But you can listen to the tape given even a different machinery; it
depends on how far back you want to go in the search layers (I remember
using Archie, playing w/ Jughead, Yanoff list, phenomenology of
menu-driven gopher etc. - this disappears even with the magic lantern, the
social ecosystem is gone).
> Wired once ran a ?The Web is Dead? article and it was lampooned, but is there
> some truth to the idea that the open, collaborative, mildly subversive
> medium many believed we were dealing with from the early-90s to about 2008
> (say, up to the launch of the App store) is pretty much gone, killed off by
> the neat separation of content providers (netflix, kindle, verified users,
> etc) and communication apps where public discussion is limited to
Yes, but also killed off by fast-forward utopian technophilia -
> *Everybody likes to lampoon Wired, but somehow Wired is still an existent
> paper magazine when legions of its rivals are long dead.
I don't lampoon Wired; I find it dangerous and deeply apolitical,
comforting the way old Time Magazine articles used to be comforting.
Example - the one page article on South African miners - and the
technology to keep them functioning in the mines; I don't remember any
political, dirty context given - just how cool the tech was.
> *I agree that the 90s web of functional anarchy and go-along, get-along
> little websites is now a historical relic. I'd be inclined to blame Apple,
> Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon for all their disruptive
> embracing-and-extending. However, there were plenty of other factors
> dooming the 90s web: wireless broadband, an explosion in mobiles, a
> militarization of the Net, the NSA, the Chinese, rampant online criminality,
> the popular love for television rather than boring discussion lists on
> desktop machines. You could see from a glance at the 90s web that the thing
> was changing with catastrophic speed. It was the picture of hectic
> Is the dream alive on Facebook and Facebook Messenger, or is the best we
> can hope for that contributing to Wikipedia and Reddit becomes as cool as
> collecting LPs?
Neither. That dream is dead, as you say below. That dream gets eaten up in
the complexity of local instabilities.
> *The dream isn't alive. The best hope is some new social invention we
> haven't heard of yet. Facebook is quite boring. Facebook is more tedious
> than old-school broadcast network television, even. Big budget media with
> millions of captive viewers isn't "cool" by definition.
I don't think social invention is possible at this point; things are far
too chaotic, too porous. It's like asking where the strange attractor is
in a chaotic domain where there isn't any.
> *One shouldn't cry in one's beer when formerly cool stuff becomes a pillar
> of society. That attitude smacks of bohemian naivet?. No social phenomenon
> embraced by a million people remains the same in the hands of a billion
> people. Complaining that the 90s web is gone is like complaining that the
> Mongols got too popular.
Yes, for me at least nostalgia killes, ennervates.
> Another (grander and vaguer) way of putting this is: what will the last 20
> years or so of web history ultimately look like? A blip? A transformation? A
> missed opportunity?
Or maybe no history at all?
> *A twenty-year blip. In retrospect, the early web will look like the silent
> film period. It'll look like the twenty-year frenzy around radio technology
> before television arrived. Of course there were plenty of missed
> opportunities, and radio itself was indeed a transformation.
You're assuming that the power grid, for example, will remain intact, that
memory, data-banking will remain intact. I'd say it will most likely look
like nothing at al.
> *The next twenty years will also be a blip of sorts. The web's present
> regime won't last. It's uglier, greedier and more intrusive than the older
> web, but it's no more stable.
It's incredibly less stable.
> *We're getting the "web culture" we deserve for this glum historic period.
> Our web today looks quite like other major aspects of our culture, our
> finance, our military situation, our religions, our law, our environment.
> That's because the web permeated all those things.
I don't think there's any "we deserve" - do we deserve ISIS' use of social
media; does ISIS deserve us? And all these things you mention permeates
the web as well; there is no web, no web culture, not even annihilation or
> *This too shall pass. Web culture is a subset of culture, and culture for
> better or worse is profoundly ductile. I think web history is great, but
> history is full of surprises. The Web itself was a big surprise. When you
> can't imagine how things will change, it means that things will change in
> ways that are unimaginable.
Yes, but surprises require somewhere along the line a kind of anomaly,
curlicue, diacritical mark, backgrounding. What if there are only
surprises? What if the protocols are so permeated by hacks, the cloud so
rained on, the internet of things so vulnerable, that a kind of collapse
occurs, one even unnoticed? Who exactly released those nude pictures? What
billion accounts were hacked? Where is ISIS/Israel now? What is China
doing? Is there a "China"? "U.S."? etc. Is there a "Web"? Does it make
sense to talk of these things? What is talking?
- Alan (apologies - your description fascinated me, I wanted to respond,
hope this isn't utter nonsense to you or the list) -
> Bruce Sterling
> On Sep 1, 2014, at 9:19 AM, Michael Stevenson <michael at webcultures.org>
> Hi Bruce,
> I noticed you joined the webcultures listserv, and was wondering
> if you might help us get started with a post that puts the list?s
> mission - to help organize and promote web history and related
> research - into a larger perspective. If you?re willing, here are
> some questions you could use (but also feel free to ignore
> Is there a distinction between dead media that can be reanimated
> and those that can?t, and which category will the web go into?
> Wired once ran a ?The Web is Dead? article and it was lampooned, but
> is there some truth to the idea that the open, collaborative,
> mildly subversive medium many believed we were dealing with from
> the early-90s to about 2008 (say, up to the launch of the App
> store) is pretty much gone, killed off by the neat separation of
> content providers (netflix, kindle, verified users, etc) and
> communication apps where public discussion is limited to
> one-liners? Is the dream alive on Facebook and Facebook
> Messenger, or is the best we can hope for that contributing to
> Wikipedia and Reddit becomes as cool as collecting LPs?
> Another (grander and vaguer) way of putting this is: what will
> the last 20 years or so of web history ultimately look like? A
> blip? A transformation? A missed opportunity?
> Hope to hear from you!
> Kind regards,
> Michael Stevenson
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