When is the Internet? Thoughts on Digital Relativity
Excerpts from an unreleased interview.
The Answers are mine.
Q. How does time function on the internet versus the real world? How does this affect the way we process culture and cultural moments online? Especially when, online, all of culture feels available to us all the time, simultaneously.
A. Much like those mythic fairylands or Freud’s Unconscious Mind1, time is no longer time nor space space online.
“Here, time becomes space”
They move from linear cycles into arcs of waste and expenditure, with occasional productive periods.
This has prevented any sort of historic narrative from forming online, people simply can’t grasp material time and momentum online.
This is why much critique of current events online is done through pop culture or antiquated histories, both of those can be consumed, reality is a bit too tough for our teeth.
Q. How are we seeing this manifest in various online aesthetic trends at the moment?
A. The multitude of cultural aesthetics have become a palette for spontaneous digital cultures. Everything new has always been a mixture of the old, but now we can see the .jpg of the old distort our new things.
Q. What does the rise and prevalence of meme suffixes (eg. core, pill) say about our desire for narrative, what is driving this? Why do we desire to be a part of these bespoke cyber-identities?
A. It reveals the unconscious meta narrative at play online, “core” a product of ubiquitous porn usage, and “pill” the pop Gnosticism of the Matrix.
These cyber identities are just hyper-complex performances that evolved from the very simple “nerd” culture of the past. This has made them more fragile and less interesting.
Q. How can we repurpose internet culture in the form of heritage moving forward? Is it even possible to be venerable in the digital world?
A. One of the struggles of our lifetimes will be the battle for the Internet. To determine what it is, “where” it is, what “time” it occupies, etc.
Many want the internet to exist as a sort of political space2, where ideas are spread, debated, and culture wars fought. All from the screen.
Others want a gamified casino3, an ideal market.
Some still want the Internet to overtake reality itself.
I read the internet as a myth4, the Fairyland or distant alien world. This allows me to analyze it symbolically. What vision of the Internet will win out?
Q. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Web 1 / early internet nostalgia. Like, why do you think we're seeing this sort of nostalgia gain prevalence now?
A. The internet has revealed itself as deeply disappointing. The ironic embrace of the early internet is in some ways a magically effective move, the hope of that naive period remains far more potent than the compounded failures of current internet aesthetics.
Q. I feel like this move towards Web 2.5/3 platforms comes with a sense of Web 1 nostalgia, in that the structure of Patreon, Substack, Discord sort of mirrors the early days of messaging boards and MSN chats. This is interesting because the internet is now getting nostalgic for earlier generations of the internet. Ofc we see this on a micro-level with memes all the time, but idk – what do you think?
A. The ideal web would contain all antique forms. We could text from Nokia brick to the next hyperphone. From a message board to the meta verse. Let the people choose what they want to fill their environment with. Though this may just be what Brian Eno talks about with limit is becoming romantic once surpassed, but perhaps a romantic internet is better than a brave new one?