The Golden Fleece

Thursday, 24 January, Year 11 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

This is a translation of an older Romanian piece : Evolutia onlinautului.i

Nobody is born wise, but all come to the world most willing to take it in the mouthii. Ends of pencils, corners of carpet, electric cabling, toes and whatever else. Gender-irrespective, by the way, boys and girls alike, you knew this, yes ?

The Internet'siii no different. The first contact of every physical person with the web is in fact the moment of the birth of a virtual person equivalent. If you're mystically inclined you could say it's the moment a body encounters its souliv, for in the end that's precisely what one's online persona is, an intangible and "better" or "cleaner" self, that might even overvive in some cases. Everyone's soul is online.

Some present rather tadpolish souls, grobian, incapable of much. This is often the case for people whose bodies had already agedv when they met the mirror, and had not how and not with what to salvage much of the cheloids left by too lengthy existence in the too narrow banks of "everyday life". Simply said they can't, not anymore, for no more having. Others present fragmentary souls, their online existence a perpetual chase in front or behind their own essence, which they know but renege (and hallucinate the notion that they can "delete" things, as if man was born with an eraser in left hand or something), or perpetual war between two halves or more shards which neither will submit but among which none's capable of taking over.

Most are simply infantile, at that age of universal degustation. Their existence begins in all likelihood with a game (something with shoosting!) and then slowly extends to some kind of messaging program -- as the needs of the organizing of game activity requires more and more communication. Once the simple pubescent combativity fades towards adolescentine predatory aggresivity preoccupations move from interaction with game partners or enemies to interaction with parnters and at the same time enemies of the opposite gender.

As ontogenesis retraces philogenesis, it's not surprising that the young mind finds itself, confronted with the endless fields of the network, about in the same situation as the minds of the first subsistence agricultors confronting the endless fields of early Earth. Hack&slash agriculture it's called in Englishvi : there comes the monkey tribe, sets fire to the woods, buries its potatoes or whatever in the ashes and then further down the river, start over. This is exactly how the relations of the young internaut work, and as this process requires a certain number of girls (or boys) per unit time, slowly but surely the way is open to the first website of his Internet history, some list of girls' ids.

From here on, it's but a small step to noticing Yahoo messenger's a somewhat ineffectual means for his relation modelvii, and a primitive social media site would work a lot better. That's how he ends up on hi5viii say, or myspace before that, or any of the countless alternatives that were and will be. Here he lives happily for a while, an inexistent and unassumingix existence, consuming pictures and chunklets of footage "found on the Internet" and interacting with these in a manner specific to defulation -- no interest in what was written before, no interest in what, if any, answers may come, a "baby take my cock" is archsatisfactory all-sufficiency.

In time, some (better, and we'd like to believe a majority) notice the complete inutility of their activity and start a line of inquiry which eventually will lead them to identifying argument (which is to say, the substance) as essential, and to excuse thus complete dysfunction of activity through the trope of the irrelevancy of form. It's the moment at which the forum comes into the life of the internaut, an instrument precisely dedicated to this theoretical approach -- "it matters not who says, or what they say, what matters is what the saying means". The form-substance conflict itroduces a whole list of specific pathologiesx such as the obsession of deliberately improper form as a transactional guarantee of the quality of substance, or an exaggerated and in the end irrational preoccupation with grammaticalization.

Forum existence, organized as it is around the substance of the textual production of each participant, that thing called "argument", suffers numerous if minor difficulties and disadvantages which the participants misrepresent to themselves as essential -- such as the fact that not all are equally equipped to recognize the same substance in a given form, in part due to strong problems of representation theory dealing with content, meaning and the role of context in expression that they generally aren't aware of, and in part to the common circumstance that they're not all equally idiotic, but each specifically idiotic in his own way and manner -- as well as an essential problem which they do not represent at all.

This is the fundamental irrelevancy of argument, of the "substance" of conversation. In any given exchange the sum total of possible and impossible positions, central and marginal, as well as the entire list of manners in which any argument could be dressed in form so as to be perceived in certain given context as either central or marginal, logical or illogical, persuasive or unpersuasive are perfectly known at the onset of the discussion, contained deterministically in the very discussion in questionxi. As such, the play of bringing their potentials to existence is naught beyond intellectual masturbation, a state of affairs the fresher intellects intuit without understanding (nor do I believe the matter's intelligible without specific education in the relevant disciplines, or otherwise strictly speaking inhuman, a transcend of other spaces and dimensions) and so is born trolling, an occupation therefore both noble and adequate to the most intelligent (if less cultivated) participants.

The next step in this evolutionary struggle is the blog, which, identitarily assumed through physical existence, concrete competency, certain political engagementxii permits the anchoring of discourse into a context that bestows upon it, if not necessarily stability (something natural language will never achieve) then at the least efficiency. To convince, to instruct or to edify the non-entities participating on forums is an operation equivalent to moving water from left of hull to right of hull, null and unwelcome effort that in the end disgusts forum veterans. To convince, to instruct or to edify persons through their interaction with your blog (or your interaction with theirs) is an activity entirely equivalent to face-to-face discussionxiii with the one difference of significantly greater efficiency.

Evidently, we're not talking of any blog, or more properly speaking we're talking of blogs specifically, and not of any random thing someone might call a blog. For the supposed blog to actually be a blog there's absolute need for some formal criteria, such as an identified authorxiv, as well as some substantial : the author must take his blog seriously, as an extension of the self, to correctly understand the relations, both correspondence and disparity, between virtual and physical world, to enjoy a real rather than mimed respect for both truth and the other (with that other's idiotic notions y compris) and generally speaking to be a civilised adult.

This then would also be the last step in the evolution of an i[ndivi]d[ual], admitting the future reserves no great union into a large flying shit. The blog is, in other words, the crowning of virtual creation, the human monkey attains, in the status of a (proper) blogger, rehumanization in a new space.

It's a lengthy, tiresome road, replete of pitfalls and sharp rocks, flowing in between precipices ever more daunting. It's not a road for everyone, just like in the physical world humanity's not an open destination for every giardia, millipede, snail or rabbit. The whole thing is though, that the ecosystem does not matter as such except through the value the presence of humans bestow upon it -- what makes the earth Earth aren't the ants on it, but the people on it, the actual people on it.

To apply this last observation from the narrow angle of my own experience, various inferior (and thus as necessarily failed) items encountered during the years had in the end no further practical importance beyond my amusement -- and whenever they failed to amuse they also failed to matter. Not "for me" but universally, the rabbit that feeds no man matters not in any practical sense. The same exact applies to any blogger, and in the end it's trite banality before stated, each and every time some concerned commentator inquired "why should I write of x". Well... for the only reason possible : it amuses me.

  1. The title is inexact, the original reads more in the vein of "the evolution of the internet-argonaut", but English doesn't permit the easy poetic slide of metaphysics into physics, of unseen reference into the carnal concrete, and so we're stuck labelling instead, a comparatively inept and sadly insufficient mechanism. Which might be a greater problem than you readily realise. []
  2. Aside the sexual implication -- which no, is neither spurious nor unwelcome, the mouth of babes is the mouth of babes, the penile axis mundi fits right in there -- I don't recall now where I explained the principal social function of children (they go about trying the world by mouth, and thus provide the adults of the tribe with valuable knowledge as to what's poisonous and what isn't) for which reason I can't link it. Should anyone's brain work any better, please leave me a comment. []
  3. A younger author nevertheless does not lack the latter's sophistication, and correctly distinguishes web and net. Have I learned nothing over the years ?! []
  4. What great bridge over the decade with ye latter The Next Generation - The Darkening - The Dog - The Chosen cycle! []
  5. Aging is not necessarily a matter of time ; generally speaking "having found your way in life" is rather equivalent to having found one's path to death, and thereby, old as the very rocks, you're entirely described by a simple sentence, perhaps something with "ever after" innit. []
  6. Really, it's called "slash-and-burn", but I used ye olde traduttore-tradittore bridge to make a joke! []
  7. You're possibly too young to remember, but the evolution of this one-on-one original messaging app degenerated into "mass messages" and so on. It's a whole story.

    The current set of yahoo messengers (called "apps") do not, needless to say, provide the mechanism. This isn't coincidental, by the way, but deliberate : the imaginary world is entirely built out of denying participants the tools to maturation. []

  8. Anyone remember this "great success" of the UGC era ? []
  9. The word works well, but translates poorly. "Neasumata" denotes that situation of unreflexive existence, where choices are made without a record of having chosen being produced. Biological, rather than intellectual life. []
  10. Much like a settled lifestyle brought along gifts unknown before Pandora's box were opened. []
  11. And apt to commercial exploitation, even. []
  12. Where by "political" we do not mean political parties or the electoral system, but any set of choices of either ethical or aesthetical nature which exclude other alternative choices from the tree of possibilities. []
  13. Yes, as in Levinas. []
  14. How things have changed! We have the WoT now, and as predicted it thoroughly supplants the antiquated models of identity grasped at as so many straws in the previous edition. []
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