Paying for the Internet in Vulnerability

by Rob Horning

6 August 2010


Often, despite my not infrequent fulminations, as I find myself spending more and more time in front of computer screens, reading and writing and even Twittering with ever more frequency, I start to wonder if I have been too pessimistic about the internet, about its role in accelerating our consumption of culture, the degree to which it more thoroughly saturates our everyday lives with marketing and its associated ideology: the celebration of novelty for its own sake, the embrace of narcissism as a mode of hyperfriendship, the supplanting of knowledge with information and data, the transformation of consumption into meme production, the mobilization of identity into a circulating personal brand that articulates the amount of society’s attention one is worth, the disappearance of contemplation in favor of increased mental throughput, the sense that quality, though frequently brandished as a goal, is in truth a liability unless it can serve as an emollient to our alacritous neuroprocessing. (I was going for a sentence of Ruskin-like expansiveness—how did I do? Perhaps protracted Proustian periods will persuade us all to take the long view now and then.)

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