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Metaphors of Internet

Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity


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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Chapter Two: A wormhole, a Home, an Unavoidable Place. Introduction to “Metaphors of the Internet” (Katrin Tiidenberg)



A Wormhole, a Home, an Unavoidable Place. Introduction to “Metaphors of the Internet”

katrin tiidenberg

Late in December of 2016, Annette Markham and I invited scholars, artists and activists to work with us on a project that would generate a set of stories about how the internet is experienced by people as we near 2020. This was driven by three shared impulses. The first was personal—I had joined Annette at Aarhus University for a postdoc and we wanted to produce something big and meaningful together to celebrate our collaboration. The second impulse is probably best called ethnographic. We felt the need to push back against, or rather complicate with lived experience, the growing bundle of academic narratives of the internet becoming domesticated (Haddon, 2006), ubiquitous (Bechmann & Lomborg, 2014), even disappearing into a post-internet condition (Olson, 2011). The internet seems only a caveat in these more complicated imaginaries of inextricable entanglements of computation, networked communication technology, environment, capitalism and human experience. It’s not that we disagree with these claims. It is more that within the specific contexts of pervasiveness, the internet continues to be experienced, utilized, built, hacked, resisted, felt, imagined and articulated in a myriad of ways by different people, in different settings, for different purposes. And these small stories of the everyday internet matter. The grand stories of the social, ethical, political and economic dimensions of today’s internet are comprised of, accepted or resisted based on people’s small stories...

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