For the rest of us - the un-imprisoned, privileged white webdenizens - the change has been incremental - a slooow creep towards the dominance of mobile devices and a small handful of Palo Alto diplodocus corps. Not sure the exact point where I felt Blogging was dead and typing words like this were just pointless punching-yrself-in-the-face... 2009? 2010? 2011? - it all feels like some implausible, impossible, barely-imaginable past now. Writing long-form pieces was always an indulgence, fer sure, but it felt like a slow suicide-note during that two-year migration from Blogger to [temporary white-out / black-out abyss] to Weebly to Tumblr to here; every word typed a "why bother?" or "who even reads stuff any more?" or (on a good day) "I fucking do!" = peckpeckpeckPECKatthatQWERTY!
But, yeah, the platforms had changed; the readers were bored / gone / grown old; the rise of mobile / Tumblr meant that folks swapped / cycled images in an increasingly superheated and Baudrillardian manner like kids trading bubblegum cards in the playground, but with the film sped up to the power of n. People still did Long Form but the curve was downwards. Like, who even reads any more, man, when all o'History is there as a distraction to be gazed at and grazed and nibbled on like an endless watercress sandwich.
Never felt the giddying 'gap' - the cliff-edge falling away - like Hossein did, just erosive creep as flowers, grass, the scenery itself were gradually removed and replaced by sand-dunes and stage-props. I moaned and grumbled and teethgrind'd my way through the transition period, of course, like it meant something other than hollow existential resistance to market-change; wrote grrr-pieces / made meaningless 'art' that critiqued "one-click-culture", the "tyranny of the Like button" until even the discussion / criticism of the whole damn thing felt, in itself, like a relic of a past age.
This is how the machine normalises - auto-un-immanentises - itself. Forces you to think of yourself as a fossil. Seduces you into becoming someone else's revenue-stream. Mediates your behaviour. Modifies your behaviour.
It enables your worst excesses and indulgences. Allows - encourages! - you to write about yourself (make selfies, document the minutiae of your increasingly transparent and all-too-demographically-predictable existence) instead of someone else's suffering or struggle.
What makes Hossein's piece so touching maybe is that he missed all the nothing-bullshit that (those of us who didn't have an iPhone) got to moan about from the comfort of our nice little sofas and internet cafes (like I am now) like it's even fucking important in the face of what he and people like him lived through -- wow: the matter-of-fact way his discussion of this change in internet culture / etiquette, ffs, frames the godawful pointlessness of his own imprisonment.
(And the sheer, utter, pointlessness of what passes for web-'culture' amongst us).
In writing this post I have shamed myself.
In making any of this about myself, I have failed this world. Failed other people.
"More or less, all theorists have thought of gaze in relation to power, and mostly in a negative sense: the gazer strips the gazed and turns her into a powerless object, devoid of intelligence or agency. But in the world of webpages, gaze functions differently: It is more empowering. When a powerful website — say Google or Facebook — gazes at, or links to, another webpage, it doesn’t just connect it — it brings it into existence; gives it life. Metaphorically, without this empowering gaze, your web page doesn’t breathe. No matter how many links you have placed in a webpage, unless somebody is looking at it, it is actually both dead and blind; and therefore incapable of transferring power to any outside web page.
"On the other hand, the most powerful web pages are those that have many eyes upon them. Just like celebrities who draw a kind of power from the millions of human eyes gazing at them any given time, web pages can capture and distribute their power through hyperlinks.
"But apps like Instagram are blind — or almost blind. Their gaze goes nowhere except inwards, reluctant to transfer any of their vast powers to others, leading them into quiet deaths. The consequence is that web pages outside social media are dying."