Friday, May 11, 2012

The Death of the Cyberflaneur

“The advent of street traffic made contemplative strolling dangerous. The arcades were soon replaced by larger, utilitarian department stores. Such rationalization of city life drove flaneurs underground, forcing some of them into a sort of ‘internal flanerie’ that reached its apogee in Marcel Proust’s self-imposed exile in his cork-lined room (situated, ironically, on Boulevard Haussmann),” wrote Evgeny Morozov, in a Times Op Ed piece called “The Death of the Cyberflaneur" (NYT, 2/4/12). Morozov points out the concept of the flaneur was a product of the sensibilities of a wide swath of l9th and 20th century intellects from Baudelaire to Benjamin and presupposed a kind of urbanity that wasn’t so structured as to mitigate against the solitary intellect, the wanderer, the seeker who didn't know what he was looking for. Morozov goes onto compare the world of l9th century Paris with its arcades to the Internet of the ‘90’s whose early search engines like Internet Explorer were conduciveness to browsing. Carrying Morozov’s point further, can we say that Google and later Facebook did to the Internet what Robert Moses did to the New York Metropolitan area and before that Haussmann to Paris and that the modernity both bring is purchased at the cost of the indigenous life? Traffic speeds forward but many neighborhoods are marginalized along the way. “If today’s internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook,” Morozov remarks, “Everything that makes cyberflanerie possible—solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking—is under assault by that company.” Advances are always met with a nostalgia for an idealized past, but if the slower pace is so much preferred, why is the walker still urged to get a horse?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.