p r o x i m a t e . o r g (2001)

Stroll through this site, a home to the exploration of the effects, possibilities, and limitations of the Internet on textual and graphical communication. It explores the limitations of the internet as a means for human relations, the loss of the gestic in text and image & parodic attempts to recover it, and the distance of human relations on the Internet.

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Hi there.

in the end will be the flesh and the flesh will be made word

Please take a stroll down the gallery path of p r o x i m a t e .o r g. The site is home to the exploration of the effects, possibilities, and limitations of the internet on textual and graphical communication. It explores the limitations of the internet as a means for human relations, the loss of the gestic in text and image & parodic attempts to recover it, and the distance of human relations on the internet.

WHAT THE NAME

The site is named 'proximate' as a nod to the concept of proxemics in human communication. Proximate communications, specifically oral communications, contain extralinguistic information, e.g., body language & context, that remote communications such as recordings or textual communications do not have, cannot have. The hope of the internet as some sort of transcendent medium deserves serious skepticism when placed in such a light. Such a light also gives us opportunity for discovering the positive. There's always the tension, the conflict.

The name "proximate" is also a pun on intimacy on the internet, as in a proxy mate. We all know sex sells, especially on the internet. The internet seems to be used as a proxy for human contact and proximal communication, which gives me pause. Such an intuition adds to what I sense as a sort of growing desperation for real, physical human contact, particularly in America, with everyone working on him- or herself, never time for affection, only time for status, career, a new car. Such use of energy may be at odds with a more positive force in life. The world has some strange dynamic property to it; there's something beyond our knowledge, yet within, around; perhaps such a thing helps explain the necessity for contact. The internet is often used as a substitute for that contact, but it can't do that well. There is NO substitute. The "i" that the pun pivots on is relevant to a constant concern throughout the site regarding identity. "I"? Y?

WHY THE SITE

I have authored this site as a byproduct of discussions I have shared about the internet, interface design and human gesture, the pretensions of proximity in web pages and the actual distances constructed by them, and some resulting poetry. Most of the discussions were this past summer and autumn through subsubpoetics (an e-mail list started by Jordan Davis) with Alan Sondheim and two close friends, one a writer, the other a designer. (Some material from these dialogues can be found at another web site: http://gesture.org/text.html.) I am interested precisely in the type of relationships that web pages build between people. I have observed that this internet aesthetic, this relater, is a duplicitous one (getting back to the original definition of art?) -- that the writing styles typical of e-talk and the "personalization" of web pages add up to make a user feel close, proximate, A SOMEBODY, while all along the relationship is constructed at an incalculably great distance. Such a great distance, that it allows the person or persons constructing the content, who is trying to get your attention or most likely your money, to completely disregard those at the receiving end of the communication. Like the power of a bomb; you can destroy people and not even have to suffer through witnessing it.

This web site appears in lieu of a book. Besides, such material would make little or no sense only in print. Of course, publishing the work on the internet pretty much guaranteed the publication. Makes it easier to work from outside the system as well. p r o x i m a t e tries to imitate this confrontational, faux-personal aspect of the internet in ludicrous ways, in some poems ("Come Closer!," "Simon Says," etc.) . Other poems engage a more sincere aspect, such as the relation between nature and the binary of computing, or my creeping suspicion that web pages are multiplying in the fashion of A.M. country stations, albeit at a greater rate, thus undermining this "personalized" bright future the internet is supposed to provide. All web pages seem the same after a while. I am primarily interested here in confrontation and the language unit of the sentence and the chord structures of poems (as I mis/read Ashbery), as opposed to the syllable, the notes of poems.

I have a strong interest in interface design, as interfaces on the internet (or in all technologies, even writing?) are the starting points for my discussion, as interfaces are the most immediate contact we have with others, though letters and graphics and hypertext links.

HOW THE SITE

p r o x i m a t e is linear, as I wanted the site to feel less like a "Choose your own Adventure" book and more like a neglected side hallway in an old art gallery space. The site contains several poems, including 2 kinetic poems, a few RealAudio recordings of readings with some background processing in some cases, some original graphics, and some groundwork for new interfaces (which are now static). Perhaps the structure is a gesture of my sincerity, as the face of much of the material is one of sarcasm and duplicity (multiplicity?). I felt I could point out internet-style duplicity by exaggerating it.

Of course, without the internet, this work would be meaningless. The internet has afforded me the opportunity to publish in such a fashion. As much as I criticize the Internet, I cannot imagine a time or place in the past where a maturing writer could develop in a fashion that is at once independent and public. Proximal and distal. For this I am not only fortunate but grateful. With this site I have something at stake, both as a poet and as a professional web designer & developer. The job pays my bills, the poetry inflates my lungs, but I wanted something devoid of such a feeble opposition, a place where the two could meet. The result is p r o x i m a t e . o r g .

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