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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 Nine: Growing Up and Growing Old on the Internet: Influencer Life Courses and the Internet as Home (Crystal Abidin)



Growing Up and Growing Old on the Internet: Influencer Life Courses and the Internet as Home

crystal abidin

As an anthropologist, I frequently travel to different cities to conduct fieldwork alone. After years of being perpetually on the road, all cities start to appear as mere permutations and combinations of pedestrian walkways, vehicular roads and railway networks, instigating in me bouts of disorientation and anomie. Between teasing out train maps and currencies, while retreating alone to yet another bedroom on yet another night, I go to the internet. I go to my internet. In there, I know the spaces and places and buttons and plumbing like the back of my hand. As the only constant experience in my life regardless of my geographical perplexity and inter-cultural fatigue, my internet is often my only continuous companion, my most trusted guide, and my home.

In a similar vein, many of the first-generation Influencers, whom I have been studying since the mid-2000s, often nostalgically refer to various spaces on the internet as their home, or sometimes a precious storage room. These pioneer batch of Influencers first debuted on blogs hosted on OpenDiary, LiveJournal, Diaryland, Blogger, tumblr, and WordPress that were popular in Southeast Asia, and subsequently moved on to more popular social media, but particularly Instagram and YouTube. Newer, shiner social media apps emerge every few months and the blogs where many Influencers first embarked on their now decade-long careers have been dwindling...

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