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Metaphors of Internet

Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity

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Edited By Annette N. Markham and Katrin Tiidenberg

What happens when the internet is absorbed into everyday life? How do we make sense of something that is invisible but still so central? A group of digital culture experts address these questions in Metaphors of Internet: Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity.

Twenty years ago, the internet was imagined as standing apart from humans. Metaphorically it was a frontier to explore, a virtual world to experiment in, an ultra-high-speed information superhighway. Many popular metaphors have fallen out of use, while new ones arise all the time. Today we speak of data lakes, clouds and AI. The essays and artwork in this book evoke the mundane, the visceral, and the transformative potential of the internet by exploring the currently dominant metaphors. Together they tell a story of kaleidoscopic diversity of how we experience the internet, offering a richly textured glimpse of how the internet has both disappeared and at the same time, has fundamentally transformed everyday social customs, work, and life, death, politics, and embodiment.

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Figures and Table

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FIGURES

Figure 1.1: IRC chat client, basic interface in 1998. Source: Screenshot from Google image search. Attribution unavailable, original image has unknown provenance.

Figure 1.2: MUSH client for interacting in multiple multi user dimensions at once, circa 1998, actual date unknown. Source: Screenshot taken by Nick Gammon. Image CC BY 3.0 AU.

Figure 1.3: ASCII text map of PhoenixMUD, photographer unknown. Source: Image CC BY 3.0, Martin Dodge.

Figure 1.4: Cospace, a browser prototype emphasizing users as avatars and transportation to websites through portals. Source: Screenshot by Martin Dodge originally appeared in the Atlas of Cyberspace project. Attribution of source material for screenshot: Cospace.org., interface developed by Thomas Kirk and Peter Selfridge at AT&T Labs, circa 1998.

Figure 1.5: Geographic depiction of size of search engines in 2000, as visualized by the company antarti.ca in 2000 (later known as Map.Net). Source: Screenshot by Martin Dodge originally appeared in the Atlas of Cyberspace project. Attribution of source material for screenshot: Map.Net., circa 2000.

Figure 1.6: CityOfNews, an experimental interface by Flavia Sparacino, MIT Media Lab, 1996–2000. Source: Screenshot by Martin Dodge originally appeared in the Atlas of Cyberspace project. Attribution of source material for screenshot: Flavia Sparacino, circa 2000.

Figure 1.7: Corning advertisement envisioning a future with embedded smart technologies. Source: Screenshot taken by Annette Markham on 9 September 2019. Attribution of source material for screenshot: Corning, Inc., online advertisement. YouTube.

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