Terminology and the Draw to the Unknown

December 26th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Jury

Internet or internet: as a proper noun the ‘Internet’ is a specific place, and refers to one specific Internet Protocol Network where as the common noun ‘internet’ refers to the larger inter network of Internet Protocol Networks that we generally think of when we use the word internet. Language for that large part of our lives (the internet part) is made up of metaphor and metonym, to reach into a reality that at its outset couldn’t be comprehended without use of terminology that related to physical experiences, which the general public was already familiar with. At this point I’d like to refer to Ben Vickers’ project introduction for ATARAXIA: Survey #1 below:

“A note on networks. “Networks are not a thing, they are a way of understanding and representing the world. A social networks perspective seeks to understand the way in which discrete units – nodes – are connected and affected by the relationships between them.” Ben Vickers, http://www.or-bits.com/08accordance/087bv.php

Recently I heard a student do a lecture at Goldsmiths University, during which he said that we no longer surf on the internet, but swim, there are currents and we are submerged; a metaphor that relays how the relationship between who is a resource to who: internet content -> <- user, has become mutually balanced in the last five years, due to the amount of receptive content, thus repositioning the users self, in context of the data stream.
Data stream.
Swimming in a stream of content.
We can take ‘walks’ (swims), (basically just whole journeys) on the internet, in so many different ways. Look at Bernhard Garnicnig Soundwwwalks, where he leads the viewer through a sequence of online sites that combine to build a complex audio texture that is then peeled, back page-by-page to silence, he calls these online performances ‘walks’.

Tron, The matrix, both are extended metaphor representations of what is behind the internet interface, because our brains can’t comprehend what dark matter is without subjective narrative and physical architectural identity. As our generation has grown up with this technology, I want to grasp it in real terms, dark matter included. I want to be able to understand it’s true, coded, electrical and invisible form, and not to rely on fictional illustrative allegory. I’m feel frustrated at how much I lean on the right, creative cerebral cortex of the brain and how little my left hemisphere gets involved in comprehending what must be a complex coded system of O and I’s.

Leaning through these physical metaphorical terms, also extends to social network theory, where identity of the internet is analogized from theory of place. For Certeau, it’s a practice space, an extension of the space of experimentation with practical function or without. Marc Augé ‘s theory of non-space has been posthumously protracted to a forth stage, by myself and others, to include non-space on the internet, such as the search engine home page, frequently updated news sights, image search listings; these places are transient and lack any solid or static sense of place, such as a chat room or online archive does.

George Lakoff argues that ‘metaphors can create realities’ ‘cultural change arises from the introduction of new metaphorical concepts and the loss of old ones’ [Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980),]. Is this true? We have metaphorised the space of the internet and now there are virtual realities and technological systems that begin to bring the physical place of the internet to the room you are sitting in. Has the metaphorical language has built the use, or the other way around?

Over use is what happens to a word when it means too much. What does it mean to talk about the internet when we are on it, in it, constantly. Doesn’t it become redundant and, like saying ‘ I’m on earth’ totally standard. What would happen if we didn’t have this word – the internet – would we all get specific; speak about spending time in live video communications, online broadcasting, email servers, specific news streams, archive sites, or even just a specific YouTube video. Wouldn’t that necessity, force open the web to be less of the mystery place we all go to for hours, and over time, make our negation of it more transparent and comprehendible.

Then I realise – this is exactly what we do want : the MYSTERY place –  the nameless void of knowledge.  When you say ‘I spent the day in the library’ the reply isn’t always followed with ‘which books did you look at’. Like this, the phrase ‘I’ve been surfing the net’ affords the researcher secrets. This over used, broad term ‘the internet’ lends us a closed door; you could be reading Heidegger or you could be looking at cat memes, nobody needs to know where you’ve been on your screen.

The DeLillo chapter that Marialaura Ghidini and the Accordance show reference also depicts the ‘invisible system’ and the surrounding mythology that has grown around that; the myth of what we cannot see to understand. So there are two unknowns, how the system works, and on a personal level, how our neighbors interact with it. Rather than trying to pin down the language and make everything transparent, I think these ambiguities and unknowns are employed by users of the internet. The specifics lost in analogous and loose terminology leave spaces for creative development.

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