You knew I’d be back.
So did I, really. I should just commit to being here, to writing here and having my shit together enough that I don’t, for example, forget to renew the domain registration, have semiotheque.com poached from me by some domain squatters who like a decade ago wanted to sell it back to me for several thousand dollars (you guys know this is a word I made up that has zero economic value to anybody and only mild sentimental value to me, and also I registered semiotheque.net right before I started negotiating because I’m not stupid.)
So that worked for a while and then semiotheque.net stopped working and it was beyond me to figure out how to make it work again. I grabbed the archive and might spend some of my copious spare time cramming old writings from what amounts now to the backups of like five or six iterations of a personal website into this here blog. Also I might not. I’m taking requests, though, in case anybody has something they’d like to read from the old days.
I miss the old web. I miss having what became a blogroll, a list of websites you’d click on down through on your coffee break to see what a bunch of strangers were up to. I miss those voices. I miss the archness and the sincerity and the promise that the web was going to bring all of America’s dorks together in one glorious community of people writing to other people and sharing their weirdness with the world.
Then a couple of things, about which I’ll probably write some in the coming months, happened. First, the Winklevoss twins’ (let’s say) project to creep on Harvard coeds turned into Zuckerberg’s panopticon. We learned that if you made a game out of human attention, you could monetize anything. You could control the news without even writing a press release. You could get people addicted to the little (1) in their browser window title bar and that was all the power in the world.
Also, along this same time, it turned out that like one third of America was actually sleeper agents of H.Y.D.R.A., or its real-world equivalent, and that they had been recruiting on some of the nastier corners of the web. Less immediately terrifying, it turned out that when you did monetize human attention, when you selected for clicks, you were selecting for some of the worst writing ever set to virtual page. It turned out that when everybody has a place to write, nobody reads, or reads all the way to the end. It turned out that anger and resentment were a low-calorie substitute for thoughtful self-examination and consideration. It turned out that, when the web brought us all together, we all sucked. All of us. Me, too.
So, I’m back here. I’m back in part because I want to participate in the web less this year. Less often, and less in the parts of the web that I think are making us suck. More thoughtfully, and for less time. I want to care less about (1) and more about the people in front of me, without checking out entirely. This is about being in but not of, which means being in deliberately and intentionally and skeptically at the same time.
So. I’m back. I’ve missed you.