Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blog post #7

Gitelman’s writing introduces me to an understanding of the temporality of the Internet that is utterly fresh and revealing. Despite the synchronic character of the Internet, just like that of most of other forms of media in our age, the Internet does not annihilate the possibility of a history of itself or the contents it transmit. Rather, the way that the Internet functions enables generation of new mode of manifesting history. Gitelman reveals the traces of the history of human labor through drawing our attention to Internet errors as well as focusing on protocols. I find it striking how revealing it is to concentrate on the commonplace “Error 404” which we all experience while surfing the Web. In my experience with the Internet, the moment of confronting the “Error 404” page is almost always incredibly unpleasant, not just because of failure to open the page that I am looking for, but also because at that moment it almost feels like the Internet changes its appearance and reveals its true nature which is not a favorable one. It’s a moment when the established role of the Internet being a helper which naturally accomplishes whatever command I give is thrown into a crisis. And maybe that’s precisely why I have always been so ready to just close that tab and forget about the whole failure. Yet Gitelman makes me realize what is at stake in doing so – I push away my awareness of the truth that the benign Internet is entirely based on protocols and is essentially inhuman. More interestingly, such occurrences are referred to as errors despite the fact that they are simply products of the most common feature of the Internet – the constant changing and updating of Web pages. Gitelman points out how common it is for pages to be moved or deleted or go out of date, a fact that I have been seldom aware of when I utilize information found on the Internet in one way or another, such as creating a link on my own page or bookmarking a page. But now it is really interesting to think about what this weird kind of temporality of web-based documents tells us about the nature of a document that bases its argument on web-based documents that might simply disappear one day and thus cannot be guaranteed access to? Also what does this temporality say about the Internet as a space when it threatens the Internet’s ability to establish its own authority?

- Qian

Anna's session

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