We have entered, the story goes, a new era of communication, a time
marked by the free exchange of ideas, a new cultural geography, a
digital village. A cultural formation intoxicates us. It is the digital
network and it has the power, the story goes, to connect people together
that they may tell their stories in a revolutionary new way.
It is clear also that certain cultural fields operate with a logic aimed
at endorsing mildly progressive elements at the expense of more radical
ones. Take for example the Fray (http://www.fray.com). Here we learn
very quickly that a computer network is not a heterogeneity, but rather,
is indicative of the same types of cultural stagnation that have
rendered some kinds of contemporary cultural production relatively
The Fray, an e-zine (of sorts) started by Wired ex-pat Derek Powazek, is
divided into four basic thematic areas: Criminal, Hope, Work, Drugs.
Inside are short stories, poetry, visual pieces, personal exposition,
etc. The Fray is… cute. But not like your little sister cute, more
like nostalgia cute.
Look for the "Death" sequence filed under "Drugs." The presentation:
very pretty images, very trite captions. I read aloud… "Death is the
twin, brother, bride and dance partner of Life. I do not know, I cannot
know how Death will come to me / Only this: I will not fear it." Users
are asked to submit their comments on how death will "come to them." In
fact, much of the Fray's content consists of users' reactions to each
piece. You are asked to contribute a description of your 'best/worst
job,' or 'when you had your first cigarette,' etc.
Under the heading "Hope" is a piece called "touched." It uses frames to
create a visually compelling vignette that maps personal experience over
time. Despite the genre, I find this piece interesting. The author leads
you through the narrative with good visual hooks.
Count on this site for large doses of trashy, feel-good prose:
"…Cynicism is the hard shell coating my hope filled center, I'm a
veritable M&M of emotions…" As one critic notes, "the Fray is the
perfect example of a beautifully rendered site that is about personal
point of view." And it is exactly this personal perspective–a dramatic
and self-righteous perspective–that divorces the Fray from any type of
That said, the Fray is very good looking; the HTML is slick. It is a
clean cut, straight ahead outlet for creativity on the web. No viable
Party here though, strictly trade-union consciousness.