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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 Twenty-Seven: No Country for IT-Men: Post-Soviet Internet Metaphors of Who and How Interacts with the Internet (Polina Kolozaridi, Anna Shchetvina, and Katrin Tiidenberg)



No Country for IT-Men: Post-Soviet Internet Metaphors of Who and How Interacts with the Internet

polina kolozaridi, anna shchetvina, and katrin tiidenberg

The internet is not understood in the same way by all people, everywhere. This statement is fair enough, but it is an inadequate challenge to the erasure of varied histories and experiences of the Internet outside the West.

This chapter introduces an alternative understanding of what the internet might mean if we take into account its world-wide history. In the fieldwork presented in this piece, the Russian authors interviewed a group of early internet pioneers. These people (men) were the first to encounter and use the internet in Russian cities. And their description of the relationships with the internet don’t match what Markham (1998, 2003) describes as ‘tool, place, or way of being’. Why?

In this piece we first turn to a historical and cultural context to describe some of the fundamental principles of ‘human+technology’ relationships in USSR (Soviet Union) and post-Soviet culture. In this historical Soviet context, the roots of the modern attitude toward the internet are built. This narrative emphasizes what elements of the relationships between people and technologies in the Soviet culture might be useful to explain the peculiarities we’ve faced in the field. Second, we identify some key features of the narratives about the internet used by internet pioneers in Russia drawing from our empirical materials. We focus on three features of...

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