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Notes Towards Internet Theory

Notes Towards Internet Theory

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Published by Adam Fieled
This collection of notes outlines some theoretical approaches, derived from literary theory and philosophy, to dealing with textuality on the Internet as of 2014.
This collection of notes outlines some theoretical approaches, derived from literary theory and philosophy, to dealing with textuality on the Internet as of 2014.

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Published by: Adam Fieled on Apr 19, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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05/09/2014

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NOTESTOWARDSINTERNETTHEORY ADAMFIELED
 
Comparing the ideologies built into
Internet Theory
to the ideologies that established and supported the
Enlightenment
(and led to the
French Revolution
) begs an important question: how does this project, and the implicit ethos and praxis of the Net, relate to history? What is the potentiality for historicity, where the Net is concerned? There is no doubt that the Net is ahistorical phenomenon; but it is not really the Net itself that is the question, it's what (if anything) Net-Life will lead to in a fractured populace. Just as the Net has widened the boundaries for literature, and made general literacy more common, two hundred years ago print periodicals were established and maintained for the edification of a new middle-class reading public. The
Edinburgh Review
, edited by strict task-master
Francis Jeffrey
(a liberal
Whig
who nonetheless lobbied to keep class demarcations in place) was the first publication to take
Wordsworth
to task;
Blackwood's
, run by
Tories
, attacked young
John Keats
, and the attack was thought (falsely) to bring on Keats's early demise. The upshot of these publications was a new level of public awareness of literature, and a new kind of casual reader; one who knew important names (and general outlines of author's profiles) without necessarily reading entire oeuvres. This is what good, comprehensive web-sites can do for literature: create a new kind of reader, whose standard may be lower than those of experts and devotees, but who are nonetheless familiar with the conflicts, issues, and trends that are shaping literary history as they happen. The Net itself, in the abstract, demonstrates Revolutionary, "Enlightenment Possibilities": class levelling, equal opportunity, and an implicit affirmation of individual subjects on quests for expressive freedom. Individual web-sites are a different story: they are public in function, but privatized in form; they speak from a particular angle about particular things; they are designed to promulgate agendas; and they tend to be atomized by these agendas.What we want from the Net is largely determined by the role that we feel art should play in society. Some artists think that art belongs in the
public sphere
-that it should be out in the world, demonstrating its own ideological coherences, increasing the cultivation and awareness of the populace, giving its audience something to look up to and live for. Others prefer the notion of
private sphere
art-that art is for individuals to appreciate, to be kept as a kind of personal possession, something separate from and having little relation to the praxis of daily life, a digital
 
commodity that should (paradoxically) remain priceless. This debate about the function of art, about in which sphere it belongs, has been going on for centuries. I would argue that the basis of Internet Theory, its potentiality for political awareness, praxis, and subversion, makes it a model for a
resolutely public sphere
approach to literature (and art.) However, I am aware of a contradiction that is not easily surmounted: I am writing this textin language that most readers will find recondite. As such, I am speaking from a position of comparative weakness; arguing for utility in non-utilitarian language. Yet, this book is not to be an
aesthetic
object; it is meant to go into the public sphere and reach those who have in interest in creating a new vision of America,through a new tool that has yet to be fully developed, plumbed, and exploited: the Net. The basis of this theory is not private interest, but public inquiry, and if the language (used discursively) is abstruse, I will have to live with the consequences.

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