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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 Eighteen: Trans-constituting Place Online (Katie Warfield)



Trans-constituting Place Online

katie warfield

“I feel like I’m trying to cling to a wet slippery fish that is wriggling to return to the water.” (Annette Markham, Life Online, p. 19)

I love this sloppy wet and tactile metaphor. Perhaps above anything in Life Online, I love most the messy material and affective anecdotes that Markham includes in her rich ethnography: Chinese food boxes splayed in her office, what Terri Senft describes as “computer butt” after eight hours in front of a screen, the physical discomfort of waiting for a response from an awkward interview subject, the tossing and catching of virtual balls and eating of virtual ice creams. I like so much these material-affective descriptions because after working with young people who share images of their bodies on social media platforms, I see the same importance of the metaphors of place and being—what I’m aligning with matter and affect—even today, 20 years later online. And the thing that perhaps holds most true to me is not the distinctiveness of concepts of place and being, but rather their messy, slippery, wet and entangled nature. Being online is not a matter of hard edges and clear boundaries; it’s a matter of slippery squishiness, boundary and border traversing, entanglement and chaos, inversions and instability. And that’s probably why I love it so freaking much.

I’m inspired by so much in Life Online that writing this paper was like...

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