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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-Six: Political Ideologies of Online Spaces: Anarchist Models for Boundary Making (Jessa Lingel)

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Political Ideologies of Online Spaces: Anarchist Models for Boundary Making

jessa lingel

Almost as soon as people began coming together on the web, they began debating the rules of participation. When someone spams a listserv, what’s an appropriate response (see Brunton, 2013)? If someone harasses someone else in a community, how can that person get kicked out (see Dibbell, 1998)? Political ideologies have long shaped discourses about what the web is for and how it should be regulated.

Whether at the micro-level of managing individual online communities or the macro level of legislating an entire industry, arguments about the guiding political ethos of digital technologies have taken on new urgency following a slew of victories among right wing and national extremists. In combination with concerns of harassment and discrimination in the industry, concerns over political implications of digital media have led many observers to call into question the long-held assumption that digital technologies are inherently democratic (Cadwalladr, 2016; Edsall, 2017). Amid so much controversy, perhaps it’s helpful to consider more radical alternatives to the political logics of online spaces and publics. Drawing on my research with online countercultures as well as some of my activist work, I will suggest anarchist models of boundary making as a generative set of practices for managing online community space.

The word “space” is somewhat charged when it comes to talking about online phenomena. Many early studies of the web noted the tendency...

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