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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 Thirteen: The Unavoidable Place: How Parents Manage the Socially Mediated Visibility of Their Young Children (Priya C. Kumar)



The Unavoidable Place: How Parents Manage the Socially Mediated Visibility of their Young Children

priya c. kumar

The birth of a child marks the beginning of a period of “snapshot significance” (Chalfen, 1987, p. 89). Out come the cameras to capture coos, smiles, steps, and birthdays, but also some of the tantrums, tears, or even toilet activities. Parents display these photos on walls and albums and send them to loved ones—as physical objects mailed in envelopes, as files attached in emails, and, increasingly, as images posted on social media. As soon as they enter the world, children develop a presence, even a social life, online. How do parents think about this process? How do they conceptualize the mediated presence of their young children?

Parents must make profoundly complex choices about the mediated presence of their children, but my interviews with new mothers suggest a certain normalization of this complexity. For most people, posting pictures on social media is a mundane part of everyday life. They make choices without necessarily noticing their intricacy. They experience the practice as inevitable, perceiving the internet as an “unavoidable place.” Here, the internet is more than a tool for transmitting or containing information, but not quite a way of being in which self, technology, and everyday life collapse completely and seamlessly. The mothers I talked to are still aware that they’re performing an identity online. In this vignette I seek to illustrate how parents...

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