I love the way that Frank Chimero approaches technology. Holistically looking at how it effects his life, and the lives of the people around him. But notably, without trying to take any sort of moral high ground. Acknowledging that with how ingrained technology is in our every day lives, there’s no real way that one can approach it in a non-contradictory or reasonable way. You sort of just have to make it work for you in a way that works for you. There’s no real solution, you just have to practice self control and regulation, in whatever capacity you need. That resonates deeply with me. I think that there’s nothing really new he says here in particular I don’t think. But I appreciated hearing it again, from this personal point of view.
There were a couple quotes that stuck out to me. Ones about the idea of “spiritual technology” in particular. The intersections between religion and the web are endlessly fascinating to me. Growing up religious and sort of coming back into an idea of spirituality in the past couple years has been an interesting experience with the sudden rise of the role of technology in my life. I don’t know what else to write here. Take this image.
joy of creation
medication, focusing, working
being overwhelmed, needing to be alone
living at home
walking amongst trees. the frogs at night. i can see four farms from my house. what does that mean. notions of belonging and home. i want to sink into the grass. the trees breathe at night. i can disappear. i’m mowing a lawn. exausted. knitting. cold in the basement. sweating outside. people walking around upstairs. pieces of my childhood i get mailed to me frequently. hiding the food i’m eating. wanting to be alone. wanting to be near. the fog obscures the valley below. i don’t want to go to school. philo in the periphery. turkeys on the lawn. i saw a deer last night. laying on the roof is the only thing bringing me peace. stars above, stars in my vision as i sit still trying to hold myself in one piece. do not disturb. i am floating 4 feet above myself.
This is going to start with a bit of a tangent but I do promise it’s going somewhere. I think that I first really wanted to take this class when I was in a bit of an intense web art phase. This was primarily in the Spring and Fall of 2021. Having spent basically all of the previous two years online I was enthralled with all that I could do with it. Having grown up online, but with strict rules surrounding screentime while I was a child, the opportunity to spend a basically unlimited amount of time on the computer was a novelty. I relished that, and it lasted a long time. This past semester though, I’ve grown more and more disillusioned with the web and the internet. It’s something that still plays a major, MAJOR role in my life, but there have been more and more times when I’ve needed to step away lately. When struggling with major mental health issues, and struggling to feel as if anything I’m experiencing is real and/or worth it, I often need something more tangible, alive, real, than the ephemerality of online. I don’t think that it’s me growing to hate the web at all, although I do often hate what’s become of my childhood escape. I just think it’s me realizing I need a balance. The novelty’s worn off, and I need more physical grounding.
It wasn’t the primary point of this essay, but parts of it spoke to that point for me. People taking the web and turning it into something real, something tangible. Or, taking the web and making light of the real aspects of it. Emphasizing the life and death. Emphasizing the organic and living parts of the web. Grounding the net in reality. This, I realize, is a bit of a limiting place to come from when approaching web art. The whole point of it is that it exists in a realm different from the one we physically exist in, and we can redefine its limits by that. But that feels almost cheap to me. I think that the web is not a platform for art to be hosted, but an extension of our reality to be explored. There’s a lot more to say there, but I don’t have the energy.
On a more relevant note, the actual topic of the essay is rather interesting to me. The Audre Lorde quote “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” comes to mind. But only in the sense that I think the web exists in direct opposition to it. We can in fact use the tools of the web to reclaim it, creative use and exploitation of the features meant for other purposes can allow us to reclaim the web for our own use and purposes. The quote is meant to talk about more overarching societal issues, capitalism, inequality, etc. I think it’s possible that my initial reading of the quote in opposition to the web may be a bit naive, I’m trying to think of ways in which we can use other tools to dismantle the corporate monopoly that exists on the web today. Alternate protocols? Handcoded tools? A handmade web revolution. We’ll see. Is that really dismantling? I don’t know. That’s probably not for me to decide.
this reading was a lot, i’m going to split it into separate bits for each section, i want to address each one with its own thoughts.
1. Synchronous Exchanges
I’ve tried to think about why online communication feels different to me for years. I grew up on the internet in some ways, it’s been around in its more modern incarnation for my entire life. I think Web 2.0 is the way to describe this? I’m unsure, I don’t really care either, I think most people get what I mean. Some of my most important and longest lasting friendships formed almost entirely online. But it’s never felt quite the same as in person communication. It’s not a bad thing, at least not a permanently bad thing. I go through phases with how I feel about it. There’s a different flow to it, sometimes I want that, sometimes I don’t. It’s been harder lately.
2. Dot Dot Dot
I hate typing notifications. I love typing notifications. They make it feel visceral and interactive. I hate that. I love it. I don’t want online to feel real, but it’s the realest thing I have sometimes. I don’t know. Side note, the fact that it’s called a “throbber” is one of the largest tragedies in naming. I feel like it had so much potential. The word ellipsis is already very good and so much could have stemmed from that. But no, we got throbber. Christ….
I can’t remember where I talked about intentionality online, but just as a preface, it’s one of the biggest things I’ve been working on for myself for the past 2 years or so. “Both social and news media seek to appeal to and produce a sense that something important is just about to happen.” By being aware of this fact, I think we can begin to try to circumvent it. Death to notifications. I choose when I want things to happen. I am the god of my own online experience. Or at least, I’m trying to be.
4. Mute Conversation
The intersection of identity and online experience is endlessly fascinating to me. Especially as a queer person. I could write on this for far, far too many words. But I think that the constant need to identify, and also switch identities depending on the spaces we exist in is a double edged sword. Good for some, bad for many others (me). I think the end of this section ties back into the previous point. Intentionality is key. Reclaiming my experiences and making them my own again.
5. Social Serialization
This section makes a lot of good points about everything trying to cater to every need. But all the topics that it brings up speak to a bit of a different issue for me. The constant need to document everything, and the social media features that endlessly cater to that in slightly different ways are horrible. There is an inclination that we can become famous somehow through this. We are incentivized to do so. People need to know what we’re up to, they tell us. This ties back to intentionality I think. But also we can reclaim privacy. That’s a liberating thing too.
6. Hangout at Work
BOSS MAKES A DOLLAR, I MAKE A DIME. THAT’S WHY I TWEET ON COMPANY TIME.
On a more serious note, the unceasing professionalization and commercialization of the web is a curse. Be dumb, be messy, be experimental, we need more of it. I think that we need to separate capital from our lives as much as possible. Maintain the things that make us human, get to know your coworkers, hang out with them. I don’t quite know where I’m going with this.
7. You are the Product
Yeah. And I hate it. I’m trying not to be. It’s hard.
Postscript, Overall Thoughts
This reading was incredibly overwhelming to me, at least at first. I’ve had my phone on do not disturb for the better part of 3 years now and I make an incredibly concerted effort to eliminate all notifications from my life. I hate them and I’ve gotten used to a life without them. So, this website was a bit of a culture shock for me. But I think that it simulated exactly what it was speaking on quite well. I tried to maintain some semblance of control, ignoring the notifications popping up for the other sections as they were happening and tried to read the piece linearly. Regardless of how hard I tried to focus, the notifications were distracting and pulled me out of what I was reading, which was the intended point I suppose. After new things started piling up, and the new notifications ceased, I traveled through what felt like a war-torn wasteland of a website, carefully picking up the pieces of some catastrophic event as I went. Checking off the notifications list as it were, clearing out my mentions. In a weird and bit too close to home way, it reminded me distinctly of the experience of coming back from a depressive episode. Going through the messages I’d left unread for days because I couldn’t handle the slight emotional strain of replying to someone. It was a lot. But it hit home. The reality of existing online. Slowly becoming more and more hostile for me. I’m a bit over it.
Technology is the active human interface with the material world.
Discus the inner structures. Make them, figure out the innards. Figure out the processes. Teach yourself. Be not afraid of getting your hands dirty. I would like to think I can embody this spirit. I like to make things by hand, figure out how my objects are made. I try to appreciate it. I want to learn to write better code.
The idea of website as room, as space, as location. Not just a flat tome of information, the least visceral interpolation of a book possible, but a vessel, a place, that holds more than you could imagine. A website is a space to explore and to flesh out. I think that since changing my interpretation of a website to something more akin to what Schwulst describes here, I’ve really had my mind opened to a whole new world of possibilities. A website is no longer an elaborate business card, but a room to decorate as you see fit. A new home, a bag, a clearing. You are welcoming people into this space to explore and get to know you through this place you’ve created. There’s infinite potential there, I want to explore that more than I already have. Make something more than a display website.
The term slow media at the top of the page isn’t even directly linked to the rest of the article but some how resonates with me the hardest. I think the idea of intentionality has been one of the most important things to me as of the last year or so of my artistic development. I want to be more conscious of my choices, especially in relation to technology. Reclaiming my online identity and relationship with the internet to be something that I actually control. Bright, Slow, Rich, Messy, Handmade, Inconsistent, Varied. Use the revolutionary freedom of connection in your own homemade spaces. I want to make a class tilde. Embrace old tech. Embrace what you know how to use. Embrace what you know how to manipulate. Code with abandon in the hopes of some utopian future. Reclaim. Make room. Make spaces. Make Channels. Come together again directly, face to face, keyboard to keyboard. Creation as a revolutionary act.