Brad Troemel (or is it Bret Schneider?) has another long footnoted screed up, this time tying a history of net art to Jurgen Habermas' notions of the "public sphere."
What is the point of having footnotes, though, if they don't actually support what you're saying? Troemel cites the internet surfing club Nasty Nets as an example of Habermas' "early bourgeoisie [sic] public sphere." (Hard to type that sentence and not laugh, since no one in the club makes a dime off of it.) Troemel claims that by Nasty's and other clubs' creation of "a meta-organizational structure within the internet"--this was around 2006--"not everyone would be able to participate in posting works, though many more viewers would be able to engage the work of prominent and emerging internet artists... due to the convenience of the clubs' unifying site of display." Yet one of the things that was often noted about Nasty Nets (within and without the group--speaking as a longtime user) was that it wasn't a platform for people's individual art, but everyone had some idea of a "good Nasty Nets post." Troemel acknowledges this, sort of ("surf clubs also espoused no specified intention beyond serving as a host environment to a series of visual-conceptual jests"), but then makes great hay of the idea that members had to be "qualified," as in having special talents or credentials. His footnote for that, a Guthrie Lonergan interview, doesn't really support that assertion, in fact would seem to contradict it. Here's the relevant passage from Lonergan:
In early 2006, I wanted to start some kind of Internet surfing community site with surf buddies John Michael Boling and Joel Holmberg. We rolled around a ton of different complex structural ideas, but we eventually decided to simply start a blog (duh). Marisa Olson helped us get it going... Basically, Nasty Nets was all the surfers I'd met through trading links on del.icio.us who'd already been developing a special "taste" in surfing: a fascination with defaults and a certain kind of banal deadpan. (I'll point to Travis Hallenbeck as the obvious best example of this kind of surfing.) It seemed like a wonderfully unpretentious and playfully nerdy thing to do, for artists who live in different parts of the world to unite though an online club. (Of course collectives Beige and Paper Rad were big influences here...) I love that every surf club seems to develop its own rhythm, even without setting forth any official goals or rules something coherent seems to develop organically (like a band). I think after a while, a lot of us felt like NN lost that rhythm and got too big... I've been praying that new surf clubs would pop up in its (temporary?) absence-- I'm really stoked for Kevin [Bewersdorf] and Paul [Slocum]'s new surf club, Spirit Surfers!
"Special taste in surfing" is meant to be sort of ironic here, I think. Am missing the part where Lonergan lays out qualifications for membership. It's semi-important to nail this down. If the surf clubs don't stand for what Troemel says they stand for ("contained unity"), then his arguments based on Habermas about the post-surf club environment being "a form of consensual affinity" make even less sense. Lonergan notes that the "club" (again, that's supposed to be ironic) had its origins in a shared bookmarking site anyone could sign up for, del.icio.us. How was the Nasty Nets "club" really different from a Yahoo! Group (where founders grant admin privileges--or not--to new members) or a YouTube playlist? Guthrie, John Michael, and Joel "curated" a group of surfers with whom they had "affinity." Tumblr and dump automate surfing and re-surfing to a much larger, faster degree, but a group blog is just another vehicle for how affinities are expressed in the Web 2.0 melee. The surf clubbers' "prominence" is mostly in the mind of the viewer--the props from one institutional site were nice but Troemel also vastly overstates its career-making potential.