N E T - P R O F I T
the hybrid space and the vertigo of engagement
In Virilio's universe, therefore, people 'no longer believe their eyes'. For him, 'their faith in perception' has become 'slave to the faith in the technical sightline', a situation in which contemporary substitution has reduced the 'visual field' to the 'line of a sighting device' (1994b : 13. Original emphases. – Rob Bartram*
Has the internet ushered in the end of l'homme de letters, or literary oracles, or has it given rise to a new breed of oracles who make their appearance using an entirely different set of aptitudes and motor activities to reach divergent goals? The circulation of the new media culture and the momentum it has already acquired, so far, has set the tenor of our times and, at least for the time being, they have taken over our lives.
In the technologized space, entry to all and sundry is easily ensured. There are no gatekeepers; with access to computers and a little bit of know-how one is all set to enter the virtual domain. Whatever the motivations on the part of the entrants are, it is nothing other than financial incapacity which may block one's entry into this landscape of freedom sometimes derogatively defined as a hyperactive node that contains in its complex system unforeseen numbers of nodal points for all to explore.
The ones who enter, for them the great web of networked world, or, call it a hyperlinked wilderness of spaces, provides ample opportunities to hone ones' craft serving both creative or commercial purposes. Apparently, the net has turned everyone in it into writers or communicators, however skilled or ill-equipped they may be otherwise. Here everyone has thoughts, ideas, and visuals to share.
The accelerated acts of sharing of info throws us across a field of play where things often lose their 'originary' complexion and quality, and one realizes how such technologically mediated transmissions mince the meaning of sharing as well as the acts of information/knowledge generation and extraction. Though we are living in an age when knowledge economy is the buzz word, in reality logocracy seemed to have degenerated into plain infocracy as most participants develop a voracious appetite for information relying on the net's capacity to supply more than there are demands.
Between affect and intellect, if one is to choose the former, the net is not the appropriate site. The effect that a particular attention-grabbing literary or artistic creation could generate had it not been lost in the labyrinth that is the busy topography of the web – a place that creates an urgent, virtual temporality – apparently loses its impact due to the modality of transmission. Irrespective of their social-personal value and the purposes behind being there, all things are thrown into this great vortex often with the hope of attracting attention, as do entries that entertain or raise hopes of material benefit. But the funny part is that in this shifting, ever-expanding topography, original purpose is often perverted and images and information seem to take a life of their own. For one who is yet to clarify one's position against the continuous onslaught of information/communications and also misinterpretations of events and creative expressions, the net is one huge cosmos to get lost into.
Therefore, the hybridity which would have transformed the place into a site for interrogation and debate, in actuality, often works as a conduit through which one can either eke out a junky life or an alternative existence that dotes on its fodder to ones' spiritual/material advantage.
Also, it is a fact that the accelerated pace that Albert Gore, US VP during the presidency of W J Clinton, once referred to as 'a revolution' which 'will allow people to transcend barriers of time and distance and take advantage of global markets and business opportunities' is often about just that: profitable exchanges. It usually takes countless forms, though some may be of material and others of intellectual ambitions. But mainly they serve to offset the anxiety that grips us most while journeying through life at a pace which we had neither set nor desired.
For most the net is a place for surfing without prejudices and networking with a deliberate intent for others, as we now look back and assess the reality of this virtual world where '[g]lobal economic interest and the emergent social form of information and communication technologies began to converge and mutually shape one another.'1 The seemingly hybrid space thus easily transforms into an ever-expanding horizon where all activities are either about network-building or of rational or irrational types of retreats.
As the net stretches the boundary of the 'commodity market' often seen as the ideal way of distributing resources by neo-liberalism, and works as a site for post-industrial era businesses being brought into shape and made profitable by introduction of new technologies and rigorous communications and public relations, its capacity to rule the world seemed to receive more impetus.2
The fall from 'physical facticity' in this technologically mediated crowded constituency, thus, calls for strategies to intervene. One wonders whether one is able to build or discover interstitial spaces, sites for disruption or annulment of the fast-tracking finance-driven events to rethink, renegotiate or reorganize the narrative of self and other.
The assent of the net to the principal position seemed to have given rise to both enthusiasm and fear. The latter, of course, came via people who are not merely resistant to progress, but are concerned over how the technologies are beginning to make us behave in a certain way, and also how it displaces the human from its earlier perches. In Virilio's terms it registers 'the waning of reality'. This loss alone may be the cause for alarm. Yet the growth seems unrestrained and unbeatable: In 1969 the number of hosts/servers were four, and in 1997, 19,540,000 (source: the internet).
- Martin Lister, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddinngs, Iain Grant, Kieran Kelly, New Media: A Critical Introduction, p 197.
- Ibid, p 193.
*Visuality, Dromology and Time Compression: Paul Virilio's New Ocularcentrism, Rob Bartram, University of Sheffield's Department of Geography. (source: the internet)