06 February 2012

surfing the internet, aka cyberflânerie

When was the last time you surfed the internet? Is there an app for it? Evgeny Morozov writes in the New York Times about how we've lost our cyberflânerie in the face of focused web browsing and social media. The 19th-century Parisian flâneur serendipitously strolled about the city: observing, finding, enjoying, thinking, but mostly not interacting. (Sounds a bit like FRBR user tasks.) Our friends now put articles they find in front of us, taking away our own discovery time and space. And I must admit that my first reaction when reading Morozov's article was to post it to my Facebook wall for all to see.

I've been thinking about intense observation since Michelle Illuminato introduced me to the work of Georges Perec. Among his books are An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris and Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, both great titles. I haven't read either of them yet; I'm too busy reading my Facebook feed.

The Morozov article, in the print edition of the Sunday Review section of yesterday's New York Times, faced two more interesting articles on the internet: "Should Personal Data Be Personal?" by Somini Sengupta and "Facebook is Using You" by Lori Andrews. I very much enjoy Facebook and other social sites and am willing to forgo the loss of privacy but I still want my private thoughts and observations. Solitude, liking yourself, is important. Other articles in yesterday's Times talked about folks living alone. It's not just selfishness ... or loneliness.

The picture is Caillebotte's "Paris Street: Rainy Day" (1877), now in the Art Institute of Chicago (image from Wikipedia article).


bklynbiblio said...

Love the idea of being a cyberflâneur, and Caillebotte's painting is a perfect visual analogy.

Sherman Clarke said...

My traveling buddy CDS (and good friend all around) says she really likes being both a cyberflâneur and a realtime/realworld flâneur ... and I agree ... strongly. Of course you're right that Caillebotte does it perfectly. I was in Boston between Christmas and New Year's and saw the MFA's new Caillebotte. Yummy.