Postmodernism online
October 13, 2012 5:31 AM   Subscribe

Where I can I read about the internet seen from a postmodern / post-structualist perspective?

It's always seemed to me that there was a natural link between the internet as a whole and postmodern theory: death of the author/central authority; flexibility of meaning; différance and so on. But I haven't read anyone who's written about the internet from this perspective. Know of any good books, articles or talks that tackle this?

I realise this is potentially fairly broad, and that both these theories are somewhat out of fashion, so if you do think of something which kind of applies even if it means rephrasing what I'm looking for, then shoot!
posted by litleozy to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I think there is a fair amount of writing related to this question -- but it kind of depends on how "literary" you want to be in your definition of post modernism. Do you want to look at what literary scholars are saying, philosophers, or sociologists? They're often focused on different things.

You might try looking at some new media scholarship to see how ideas of networks/"wisdom of crowds" (David Weinberger, Clay Shirky) have sort of displaced post-modernistic approaches in recent years. Or contrast that to scholars like danah boyd who look at performative ideas of identity online (which is a little more allied with ideas of least in my mind).

Good luck!
posted by pantarei70 at 7:23 AM on October 13, 2012

Thanks pantarei70! Small pieces Loosely Joined looks very very interesting.

I've already seen some of danah boyd's work and I like what she has to say, but if I'm honest I find it a bit... unrigourous. Much of what I've seen seems to take the internet first and then work back. 'This is really Cool! I wonder what it MEANS etc'

Basically, I suppose what I'd be looking for is someone who has used the intellectual framework and language of postmodernism or post-structuralism and seen how that applies to the internet. I'm more aware of literary version of postmodernism, but work by philosophers or sociologists would fit too.
posted by litleozy at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2012

What about Kathleen Hayles and Mark Dery?
posted by johnasdf at 7:55 AM on October 13, 2012

I would suggest looking into Lev Manovich and his various books - they don't deal with postmodernism directly, but provide a theoretical framework for interactive media and, by extension, the internet.
posted by Ms. Toad at 8:17 AM on October 13, 2012

I agree about the "unrigorous" thing. I'm a social science type -- and while there's some great stuff, some definitely has me wondering "is this a real thing?"

Maybe there is someone in the literary criticism field working to apply a post-structuralist approach more solidly -- but I haven't seen much. I am really interested in, for example, rhetorical approaches to studying how hyperlinks are used in online writing and I just can't find the person writing about what I want to know! Dagnabbit! I'll keep watching this thread.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:01 PM on October 13, 2012

Mute Magazine brought a lot of University of Warwick postmodernism to the internet in the mid-90s, and it's still working that seam to some degree. Probably more valuable to look at the archive, when Hari Kunzru and James Flint (both now novelists) were writing for them, and there was some crossover with the first incarnation of Wired UK. On the American side, Steven Shaviro's Doom Patrols belongs to that era as well.

There were a few pomo/net mailing lists that I followed around the same time, with various areas of interest (Manuel de Landa, internet-centric readings of Hakim Bey, Guy Debord, Deleuze & Guattari, etc.) but a lot of that seems to have fizzled out (or at least dropped off my radar) as the web ceased to be a new[-media] frontier.
posted by holgate at 2:47 PM on October 13, 2012

To be fair, while you are calling this new application of critical theory "unrigorous", the same claims were leveled at Postmodernism for a long long time as it evolved and mostly by the structuralist/post-structuralist establishment: by the time it was accepted as a valid take on things, it already felt virtually irrelevant. Even by the early 90's we were waiting to see what was next down the pike, for the next "named school" to be established.

The internet is hitting so hard and fast I suspect it will take academia a little time to catch up with the next evolution/iteration of postmodernism, and for now it's really hard to see the forest for the trees. Take me with a grain of salt, of course, as i haven't actually kept an eye on postmodern discourse since, what, 1993? But I'm curious now, too! I'm going to have to check out pantarei70's links.
posted by otterpop at 5:06 PM on October 13, 2012

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