On Morozov’s “The Death of the Cyberflâneur”

05FLANUERSUB-articleLarge-v3Evgeny Morozov's piece in the NYT's Sunday Review has received some critical attention.

First, over at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, episode 3 of their podcast has an extensive and interesting discussion of the article.

Second, Jesse Darling in The New Inquiry:

In a recent article for the New York Times, Evgeny Morozov delivered a speculative eulogy for the “cyberflâneur” — who died, or perhaps failed to materialize, in the face of Facebook and Groupon and the totalizing influence of the “app paradigm.” Morozov even waxes lyrical about the golden days of the dial-up connection, as though remembering the swathe of the plough in the field. Where this all once was grass, he laments, the information superhighway now runs through the middle; pity the snotty Tumblr thug who will never know the wholesome pleasure of strolling endless dreaming fields of Euclidean space with his own handmade code as map and compass. There will be no strolling or loitering — either with or without intent — on Morozov’s Web. It’s a bleak place with no boardwalk, where wall-to-wall ads, targeted to our needs and desires, map the perimeter of task-based playbor zones, homogenous and incontravenable. Worst of all, “the tyranny of the social” will prevent us from enjoying seven-hour Bela Tarr flicks with our friends. The good times are gone.

This discourse of virtual antiquity is notable, since so much internet theory has been defined in part by a sense of newness and speculation. Old-school source texts even include several works of fiction (Gibson, Stephenson et al.). “Much of the excitement about the internet and virtual reality is generated by a sense of what it will become,” Nicholas Mirzoeff wrote in 2008, going on to describe Gibson’s hyperurban hyperrealities as “quintessentially modernist.” But 2008 was, like, years ago.

Like Gibson’s dystopias, Morozov’s lament — ironically enough — echoes the malaise of the very moderns to whom he refers, fretting as they did that the new urbanopolis would signal an end to slow pleasures and community spirit.Despite all that Cartesian stuff, the Moderns’ understanding of the self was essentially corporeal, and the spatial anxiety of modern urbanism appears as a crisis of embodiment, or personhood, in the flux of big-city time-space.