The Web We Lost/Out in Public

Posted on Nov 20, 2013 in Web

For the moment, a broken php page (working with nyc open data-boilers (in mySQL)) can be found at:

I need to fix the confusion between objects and arrays, since I’d begun the example working w/ Robyn/Shawn’s garden mapper. But I think if I sit down and try to build from scratch a series of foreach operations within the filter block, I will be able to both sum boilers per zip code and then nest a finer series of sorts by #4 and #6. For the moment, I’ve just spent a few hours working through the various array options listed on the official PHP site. Not the way to tackle the issue. Needs a re-conceptualization and rebuild. Which is to say, this will be reloaded Sat/Sunday… Another day of php will also force me to evaluate whether I’m being unrealistic thinking that my final should try to replicate some of the data/interaction behavior of programs like d3.js…My brain is refusing to really think code after yesterday’s ICM burnout. Need to reboot.

Infrastructures & Individualization

So, as I’ve been trying to think through Anil Dash’s call to reclaim and re-open territory within the ‘social’ web, I actually keep returning to the critical sampling practice of Natalie Bookchin’s work. Dash’s original emphasis on free access- like flickr’s api- and the mash-up sort of searching, sorting, complication that encourages is given a highly curated, critical presence in Bookchin. Although her medium is youtube– not flickr or the more, limited, closed worlds of facebook, instagram, etc.– I’d like to play their approaches or filters off one another.

I see Dash’s argument, as a creator, coder, and developer of applications, being aimed predominantly at his peers, the group of professionals and amateurs alike that are building the ‘face’ of the web that others use. His cultural criticism is no less valid, but it’s work like Bookchin’s that seems to be making the move to a conceptual or ideological engagement with the public as such… Granted, ‘Mass Ornament’ is greatly enhanced if you’re aware of Siegfried Kracauer, but her point is that she’s querying how individual appearance, individual interaction occurs within these larger infrastructural systems and what sort of public ‘imaginary’ is constituted by the web… as she says, “What I am trying to do through my editing and compilation is reimagine these separate speakers as collectives taking form as a public body in physical space.” In many ways, even just as a symbolic manifestation, Bookchin is re-constituting the awkward, half-closed ‘public spaces’ Dash wants to crack wide open for real public access and occupant in ‘Rebuilding the Web.’

So, as both an occupant of the conflicted, semi-closed world of Bookchin’s videos and an aspirant, amateur participant in Dash’s construction project, how are we to begin to define an open, public, social infrastructure and exchange system like the web. While certainly, Dash’s vision is more attractive than the utterly limited interactions and monetized empires of facebook, I guess I don’t quite know what ‘we’ expect from free infrastructure. Like, if I think through other infrastructures and their histories, are we in the ‘internal improvement’ phase where free, collective use is justified in terms of the larger social and economic gain in globalized competitiveness? My physical metaphors are a bit inadequate, but I guess, like Bookchin, I see the contradictions and conflicts in our social aspiration for the web as wedges that might open up a more realistic, reformist approach to the next generation of constructions. Chicken/egg… do we push problematization and ideaological reorientation or build prototypes first, disassemble walls?

One last generalized musing between Bookchin’s recognizable, fragmented figures and Dash’s underlying systems:

So both Bookchin and Dash are addressing the notion of the social web as largely space of individual expression and interaction, a notion of identity that is really only a fraction of how we might be manifest as we use or exchange information. Granted, your sense of individual identity is entwined with how you use and post as a professional, a committed member of institutions, etc…. but so how does the battle over ‘social’ networks spill into the construction of free, open exchange and searching platforms for things like scientific and specialized research? Or how does how we approach or expect other web resources, their storage and exchange, impact how institutional interaction and hierarchies get created, expanded, loosened on this platform? I guess, it seems like there’s a finer array of social structures (built on both expectations, code, and legal-monetary battles) that are being radically reshaped in these battles. I guess I’ll have to search out those debates to compliment Bookchin and Dash’s emphasis on everyman access.