It’s easy to see … why cyberflânerie seemed such an appealing notion in the early days of the Web. The idea of exploring cyberspace as virgin territory, not yet colonized by governments and corporations, was romantic; that romanticism was even reflected in the names of early browsers (“Internet Explorer,” “Netscape Navigator”).
[…] However, anyone entertaining such dreams of the Internet as a refuge for the bohemian, the hedonistic and the idiosyncratic probably didn’t know the reasons behind the disappearance of the original flâneur.
In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was experiencing rapid and profound change. The architectural and city planning reforms advanced by Baron Haussmann during the rule of Napoleon III were particularly consequential: the demolition of small medieval streets, the numbering of buildings for administrative purposes, the establishment of wide, open, transparent boulevards (built partly to improve hygiene, partly to hamper revolutionary blockades), the proliferation of gas street lighting and the growing appeal of spending time outdoors radically transformed the city.
[…] Something similar has happened to the Internet. Transcending its original playful identity, it’s no longer a place for strolling — it’s a place for getting things done. … [I]f today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. And it’s not just any company: with 845 million active users worldwide, where Facebook goes, arguably, so goes the Internet.
It’s easy to blame Facebook’s business model (e.g., the loss of online anonymity allows it to make more money from advertising), but the problem resides much deeper. Facebook seems to believe that the quirky ingredients that make flânerie possible need to go. “We want everything to be social,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said on “Charlie Rose” a few months ago.
What this means in practice was explained by her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, on that same show. “Do you want to go to the movies by yourself or do you want to go to the movies with your friends?” he asked, immediately answering his own question: “You want to go with your friends.”
[…] IT’S this idea that the individual experience is somehow inferior to the collective that underpins Facebook’s recent embrace of “frictionless sharing,” the idea that, from now on, we have to worry only about things we don’t want to share; everything else will be shared automatically. To that end, Facebook is encouraging its partners to build applications that automatically share everything we do: articles we read, music we listen to, videos we watch. It goes without saying that frictionless sharing also makes it easier for Facebook to sell us to advertisers, and for advertisers to sell their wares back to us.— Evgeny Morozov on “The Death of the Cyberflâneur,” New York Times
With the passing of [Steve] Jobs this week, we are also mourning a man who defined a new kind of worker. The Jobs world-view consecrates the sacrifices of an ambitious, dedicated, and committed professional class that seeks recognition and passion in creative work. The language of love and intimacy is central to this career project. Over the past two decades, IT hardware manufacturers have made fortunes selling products through an association with the fantasy of satisfying, challenging work.
[…] When iPads and smartphones function as the signifiers of what it means to live the good life, freedom no longer entails liberation from labour. It is instead to be found in the release of personal productivity, in an ever-growing number of locations, with technology as conduit. As images of mobile devices continue to invade public spaces and airwaves, their middle-class address should not go unnoticed.— Melissa Gregg, “How Steve taught us to love our Jobs too much,” The Conversation
Christos Tsiolkas, “On the Concept of Tolerance,” from Tolerance, Prejudice, Fear, 2008.
(Altered excerpt available on ABC’s The Drum.)
Change may mean you have to stop doing things a certain way; it doesn’t mean you won’t find better alternatives. Shifting is what industries do. To paraphrase a comment on my last article: “Conductors, guards, milkmen, dustmen, stable-hands, sail-makers, blacksmiths, riveters, SEC linesmen, deckhands, all lost their jobs when technology rendered them redundant. If you are not educating your children for a world where a working boiler exists only in a museum then you are the fool.”
Regardless of pollution, we’re still dealing with finite resources. They’ll run out someday, and someone’s going to need to make the transition. There’s no reason why this generation shouldn’t be the ones to put their hands up.
Australia can afford a carbon price, and needs to make CO2 pollution less simple and desirable for industry. No, a tax alone won’t save the world, but examples need to be set. Opponents hide behind the argument that we shouldn’t bother if everyone else isn’t doing it. Sure, there’s no point me personally not driving home wasted, because even if I do kill a couple of people, it’s hardly going to touch the road toll, man. I mean, overall. It’s a couple of per cent at most. Look how many people China are going to kill this year! No, I don’t want a biscuit. I’m driving.
It’s bewildering, then, that the arguments of all four lobbies - pokies, mining, tobacco, and polluters - have been accepted by media outlets, and therefore by a lot of people. Clearly they are the arguments of those with the greatest interest in nothing changing.— Geoff Lemon on Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard versus the mining/tobacco/pokies/carbon corporate lobbies, in ”Australiar and the idiot dilemma,” The Drum (via Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
It was true that local characters and scenes slotted effortlessly into a global script. Muscled teenagers in big shorts crowded the nation’s shopping malls. On neat estates where every house replicated its neighbour, young women pushed strollers containing babies of such plush perfection it was difficult to believe they would grow up to eat McDonald’s and pay to have their flesh tanned orange. There was comfort to be derived from this sense that the nation was keeping up with the great elsewhere. What claim does a new world have on our imagination if it falls out of date?
But a stand of eucalypts in a park or the graffiti on an overpass might call up a vision of what malls and rotary mowers had displaced. Australia was LA, it was London; and then it was not. Here there was the sense that everything modern might be provisional: that teenagers, news crews, French fries might vanish overnight like a soap opera with poor ratings. The country shimmered with this unsettling magic, which raised and erased it in a single motion.
The past was not always past enough here. It was like living in a house acquired for its clean angles and gleaming appliances; and discovering a bricked-up door at which, faint but insistent, the sound of knocking could be heard.— From The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser
But there’s no good complaining, for money’s rant is on.
He that’s mounting up must on his neighbour mount,
And we and all the Muses are things of no account. — From William Butler Yeats, “The Curse of Cromwell,” 1938