Tag: Internet

Mine Furor’s executive order “on preventing online censorship” is baffling, as primarily it orders a slew of agencies to “file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission” — an agency which has absolutely zero statutory authority regarding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The literal moment the FCC takes any action it will be swamped with lawsuits on that basis alone.

One thing Lizzie O’Shea might be misconstruing is that back in the web’s crude, ugly days, one’s own presence on the internet tended to be more personal — whether through one’s own homepage or “just” through profiles you needed to fill out on early social networks (as opposed to later social media platforms, which are different) like Friendster. One tended to have some sort of “home” through which you described and defined your persona or personality. While there was no mythical “single collective experience” what we did have — and this is significantly what Joanne McNeil’s book was about — was an internet of people rather than an internet of users. So, I wonder if O’Shea isn’t mistaking being able to look back at the past internet and see people for being able to look back and see public space in the way in which she conceives of it. It was never public space in that sense, but it was a peopled space. In a very real sense, and one that runs against the grain of O’Shea’s argument, the move toward mass platforms — closer to, not farther away from, the “single collective experience” O’Shea mythologizes — in fact depersonalized cyberspace.

What ‘Single Collective Experience’?

Lizzie O’Shea, in Future Histories, just said something that I had to re-read a few times to make sure I was reading it right. About two-thirds of the way through the second chapter, “An Internet Built around Consumption Is a Bad Place to Live”, she remarks upon a changing internet.

In other words, shared public space begins to vanish; increasingly there is no single collective experience online.

“In general arc if not always specific sites and services,” I observed about Joanne McNeil’s recent book, “Lurking is the story of my internet, too. For her, it was AOL and Geocities; for me: gopherspace, MindVox, IRC, and Usenet.” I’m reminded of that statement because it serves to contradict O’Shea’s allegation, in that there never has been a “single collective experience” on (or of) the internet — there might have been places within all that ethereal expanse which this or that group of people might have shared, but not some overall “shared public space” in the sense O’Shea seems to mean.

People who got online around the same time often, as I suggested, have similar arcs to their onboarding and initial experiences, but the specifics will have been more or less unique.

O’Shea doubles-down on what I feel is a fundamental misconception in her next paragraph.

If we think about the Internet as a place rather than a service, this process of abstract identification is not empowering — it causes fragmentation and distance between people. It creates a world where the population is subject to different framing effects, making for increasingly insurmountable political and social divisions, worlds that stand apart from each other despite nominally existing in a communal space.

What I find weird here is that in many ways, the modern internet has more widely-spread and shared communal spaces (if not places) than it has since the heyday of Usenet — which arguably doesn’t count as a true “public space” due to the comparatively small population of the internet at the time — due to platforms like Instagram and Twitter, where anyone and everyone mostly can access anyone and everyone else almost at whim.

(Whether or not that lack of friction itself actually precludes the idea of such platforms being usable as any kind of true “public space” is another thing altogether.)

The usefulness, to me, of the early metaphor of “cyberspace” precisely lay in its amorphousness, but it’s weakness lay in conveying the idea that there was a there there — instead of communicating simply that there was room for any number of places to arise. It suggested, perhaps, that there was a sort of virtual firmament and if everyone was going there it must be “public space”.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be trying to find better ways for us all to be online than the current ways so dominated by marketing companies abstracting our collected and collated behavior into just so many lobotomized versions of Max Headroom (“people translated as data” indeed, Bryce).

It’s just to say that, given O’Shea’s exhortations early in the book to properly characterize, and take a kind of ownership of, our past in order to inform how in the present we conceive of possible futures, it sticks out to me that she seems to get such a basic idea about how the internet has or has not changed so wrong.

I think Gruber is essentially correct about Quibi, except that I think the actual important part of its ridiculous concept is that it’s basically a very logical entertainment conclusion to come to for a culture where people are supposed to be optimizing their very sense of self around their corporate productivity. Quibi is the Jetsonian dinner-in-a-pill of entertainment, and maybe the target demographic for this decided this was just one optimization too far.

Further accomplishments: have successfully migrated my slow.dog server over onto the bix.blog server, so I only have to deal with one “nanode” at Linode. Web is working, SSL is working, but some redirects aren’t yet. Working on that next.

Link Log Roundup for May 7, 2020

In this edition: getting outside, race and climate, herpes, lines and strains, conflicts of interest, autistic social distancing, screen time, coronavirus parties, universal basic income, tracking infection, reopening Oregon, worker petitions, public space, language, paying for transit, and Pedalpalooza.

Link Log Roundup For April 30, 2020

In this edition: autism research, men ditching books, peeing in the pool, coronavirus confusion, liminality, reopening Oregon restaurants, Oregonian death rates, mental health in quarantine, public space online, informal public characters, sidewalk chalk, intelligence, the Gross Domestic Product, the Anti-Mask League, Latinx disparities, compulsory masks in 1919, vote-by-mail hypocrisy, and saving .ORG.

Today I received my first ever email scam of the “send us bitcoin or we will release video of you masturbating” variety.

As demand increases during social distancing, delivery apps are fleecing restaurants. Always ask your favorite restaurant what is their preferred delivery method.

Elapsed time from the point of my return to Internet Relay Chat for the first time in two decades or more to witnessing my first netsplit: three weeks.