by tom moodyComments Off on "Professional Surfer" revisited
Paddy Johnson offers an eight-years-later look at a Rhizome online exhibition, "Professional Surfer," to see how it holds up. She thinks it doesn't, because (i) its premises weren't that well thought through to begin with, (ii) link rot plagues many of the sites included in the show, and (iii) search, and by implication, surfing the results, has moved to Facebook (really?).
[John Michael Boling's] “Lord of the Flies,” a video in which we see hundreds of cursors descending upon Google [Johnson writes], would make up for [the inadequacies of another Boling piece], though, were it not broken. [I was able to play the Quicktime but not the related MIDI file --tm] It’s a poignant reminder of the one time omni-presence of search. Much of our activity has migrated to Facebook, but the race for traffic and links that this piece implies remains a constant today. Oddly enough, it feels both historical and timely.
Johnson's criticisms (i) and (ii) in the first para above might have been remedied if Rhizome had done more to preserve and contextualize the sites in question. Nasty Nets was "99% archived" by Rhizome before the original disappeared but it was never officially launched as an ArtBase acquisition, i.e. with a front page cover story such as the one Vvork received. Several of us NN members received emailed questions about our involvement with the site but then the writer apparently spaced out and moved on to other pressing concerns. Documentation and Q&A has fallen to people outside Rhizome, such as the graduate student who did the PDF referenced here.
As for the Facebook "migration," it would be nice if Johnson and Rhizome would stop treating FB as an inevitable and necessary feature of "our" lives. Sure, lots of people use it, but there's also a lot of griping about it and seeking of altenatives. If you are on dump.fm or using IRC to have private convos or getting news via your browser or RSS you are closer to the world "Professional Surfer" describes than the social media dystopia being adduced by our thought leaders as the new norm. Just because Johnson has stopped using search engines doesn't mean everyone has.
Addendum: Facebook was held up by Johnson as the current internet standard in another paragraph of her post, concerning Travis Hallenbeck:
Meanwhile, Hallenbeck’s livejournal — a collection of links to niche music/computer sites, personal lists, and quizzes — proved satisfying to click through as well. (My favorite Hallenback find was a quiz that identifies your chemical type and offered an accompanying poem. Hallenbeck got “pheromone”.) None of this seems so dissimilar to Facebook updates now, so it’s hard to explain his importance past perhaps being a valued member of the nerdocracy. While this demographic no longer rules the web, it’s hard to understate the appeal of a indie-music art nerd in 2006. Hallenbeck did this better than anyone.
Possibly there are "Facebook updates" as interesting as Hallenbeck's Livejournal or Tumblr or Pinboard but why make that comparison? You could go the other way and argue that all the interesting stuff is happening outside of Zuck's world of surveillance and commerce.