Thursday, 19 June 2008

Internet Traditions

So the whole "Internet Traditions" meme has really taken off. Even though it's pretty much entirely based around slapping down an idiot, I actually think some sort of grouping together of the various idiosyncrasies of the net is an interesting idea. It doesn't really seem to far-fetched to me (and I acknowledge that I'm way out of my depth on this one) that the internet community is developing some kind of culture just like any group of people forced to interact with each other. We already have a relatively advanced idea of net etiquette (to the point where we have a name for it) but perhaps more general ideas are arising, too. How long before we give birth to holidays, and religions (I'm pretty sure one way or another we've already fought more than a few "wars"; and we certainly have our own dialect)? Just take a look at mightygodking's contribution to all this, which in itself references what may (or may not) legitimately be considered an internet tradition. I'm wondering what other examples we might be able to dredge up.


Jamie said...

That's quite an interesting development; thanks for linking to the site. A few things though. I think the perspective you're viewing the internet from is possibly a tiny bit limited; as an example, the word 'nettiquette' was coined somewhere in the region of twenty years ago. Yep, when we two savvy 21st century netheads were only halfway through primary school.

I don't think that the internet is developing 'some kind of culture'; I think these ships have sailed many hundreds, probably thousands of times over the last couple of decades; it is no more true to say the internet is unified in such a way as it is to say it has it's 'own dialect'; again, there are myriad such things, with a lot of crossover, sure, but not homogenous by any means.

I think the reason why the 'internet traditions' meme is pretty hilarious is that it is so self-evidently an impossible Herculean task. It's certainly never going to be comprehensive :-)

SpaceSquid said...

I recognise I'm behind the curve (though it's not like I thought netiquette was something dreamt up last week or anything). I also recognise that this sort of stuff has been around for a while. My interest is in the degree to which this stuff will become homogenised. I keep thinking about the discussion in Snow Crash about how language tends to degrade and split up, how from (comparative) similarity differences eventually form.

The internet isn't like that, though, the internet started off as completely inhomogenous, so there's no automatic reason to dismiss the idea that the stationary distribution of the net might be more close to similarity than you think. It's never going to be completely homogenous (although no culture is, anyway), but my point is we might be headed towards something, rather than not.

Pause said...

"I think the reason why the 'internet traditions' meme is pretty hilarious is that it is so self-evidently an impossible Herculean task. It's certainly never going to be comprehensive :-)"

That's not to say some people won't try, though.

But what, no Nintendo 64 kid?

Gooder said...

I don't really see the internet as creating a new culture, instead it serves to solidfy the existing prevailing culture whilst grouping together various counter cultures. It is after a tool of communication more than anything else (i would also argue that nettiguette is adaptation of existing interaction patterns rather than anything distinctly new).

Thats to say the internet isn't affecting the world in a variety of different ways (such as the increasing the speed of globalisation which is the bigger factor behind the homogonising effects of the internet) but I don't think it yet stands as an independent force of significance.

SpaceSquid said...

That's a very nice link, Pause, but I wouldn't call it culture, any more than I would the brief obession with pogs our nation seemed to go through back in the nineties. This stuff is, to borrow a phrase from Christopher Bird, "cultural flotsam"; here one minute and gone the next (how many people still talk about Napster, or point out that someone's whatever are belong to us?) How many crazes swept, say, Victorian England that we no longer recognise? I'd wager not one person in fifty knows what a Penny Dreadful is.

I recognise that nothing says culture should be static, and in fact all evidence suggests that it can't be static, but I'd argue there has to be more to it than an assortment of in-jokes.

Analogy-wise, I think you could do worse than America in the early/mid sixteenth century. At what point did the cultures of settlers of various nationality begin to combine into a culture that is recognisably "American"? I have no idea, but it's hardly laughable to suggest it took more than a couple of decades. Eventually some of this stuff became completely homogenised, some became partially integrated, and some remain essentially separate even to this day.

That's the basic model of what I'm talking about.

Pause said...

I know 'Squid, I'm just being silly in an attempt to hide the fact that my sociological intelligence is fundamentally limited beside the comparable intellects of my peers leading me to have no meaningful contributions comprised of either penetrating insights nor encompassing theories I can make towards this nor any other pop-psychological profilings, and my personal observations are thus limited to noting the resulting means of expression among those immersed in particular facets of human behaviour in the usually misguided assumption that this may illuminate the thought processes, environmental factors and other social patterns leading to the culmination of representation in OOOOoooohhhh, shiny.

SpaceSquid said...

I'd forgotten about that map...