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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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Chapter Twenty-Five: Metaphoric Meltdowns: Debates over the Meaning of Blogging on Israblog (Carmel Vaisman)

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Metaphoric Meltdowns: Debates over the Meaning of Blogging on Israblog

carmel vaisman

Blogs have long been a central feature of the Internet. They’ve been studied as tools for personal expression, variations on traditional self-expression media like journals or diaries, platforms, digital interfaces. These conceptualizations emerge through use and interface design choices, since digital objects have no boundaries without a built-in metaphorical power. As signs, digital entities can be articulated in arbitrary media or modalities (textual, auditory, pictorial, haptic), but once instantiated in a modality they become non-arbitrary, because of their indexical relation to code in software (Boomen, 2014).

While a traditional metaphor transfers meaning between different conceptual worlds, in a material metaphor, the transference occurs between symbols and physical artifacts (Hayles, 2002). In the case of digital artefacts, the transference is between the discourse metaphors of users or interface designs, and the architectures of software and hardware. As Lev Manovich (2001) pointed out, the same database could be accessed through and represented by two distinct interfaces, designed to generate different user experiences, which are based on different metaphors. In the case of blogs, just think of the difference between LiveJournal and MySpace. The transference between discursive metaphors and architecture can be one that elucidates how the technology operates or rather obscures it, as is the case with the metaphor of the cloud in cloud computing.

The notion of material metaphor elevates the operational reach of discursive metaphors beyond...

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