In his essay, "_Wired_ Unplugged", Mark Dery, author and culture jammer, quotes
Jordan Crandall quoting a magazine advertisement:
"Miming disembodied hyperkinesis, _Wired_ simulates a simulation—the immersive
virtuality promised by a recent NEC ad, which declared, 'Everything you know
about multimedia is about to change. And fast. Call it "virtual reality" if you
like, but before long you'll actually be able to step into magazines…Images and
words will surround you. You'll be able to control, even touch, what you see.'"
Both the Dery and Crandall essays were published and distributed via the nettime
mailing list and Dery credits Crandall with the citation in one of several
footnotes followed by a stern copyright notice. All the trappings are there.
Though the essay may never have landed anywhere near paper, it has most
definitely been "published".
We use the word "publishing" when talking about the dissemination of texts via
online technology primarily because we don't have a better one. But distributing
a formal essay via a mailing list or onto a Web site is a hyperkinetic act even
more disembodied than the one Wired mimes. Wired, for all its other vices–the
elitist stance, the lazy laissez faire libertarianism– cannot be faulted for the
practical inaccessibility of the texts it's designed to hype when set against
many of the Web journals currently struggling with their own mimes of
Dery's main problem with Wired – that its design gets in the way of its content
(and he's right on to refute the common accusation that its design is its
content) – came immediately to mind as I set out to review the state of art
journalism/criticism on the Web, particularly as I tried to get at the actual
content of Telepolis and Zer0 News. More than other sites, these two strive to be
the simulations Wired simulates.
Both are European sites. Telepolis is put together in Munich, ZerO News is part
of Vienna's vast Public Netbase. The Europe in these publications can be sensed
in the tendency to delight in theory that has long since evolved, fractal-like,
far and away from whatever original concrete subject had set off the process. The
catalyst is not always art. Neither site sets out to be an art journal
exclusively, but both bring a sensibility seeped in the constructs and ways of
art criticism to the set of issues now generally referred to as "Net criticism".
They talk the talk.
But it's tough to get to that talk. In print, part of an art journal's mission is
to be at the forefront when it comes to fresh presentation of content. But few of
the genuinely significant ones let eye candy get in the way of the text. The
challenge for a Web journal is not only to overcome the Web's awkward, slow means
of getting word out, but more, not to succumb to the temptation to employ every
silly gadget that falls from the debris of the ongoing browser wars.
Telepolis is a regular Mondrian of tiny squares cluttered with icons and menus,
leaving little room for much to be actually said. Scrolling inside a frame for
which there's barely room for your cursor just to find the titles to click on is
absurd. And at the bottom of the first page: "This is the frames version." No
Living in Europe, I shouldn't need a T1 to access ZerO News, especially
considering that it's located on a site justifiably priding itself on all it's
done in the name of public access. But the large Public Netbase icons slow the
whole navigation process to a crawl.
Telepolis and ZerO News are both to be commended for seeking out and finding
thought-provoking content and then attempting to present it in innovative ways.
But until these simulations practice a kinesis that isn't so hyper as to all but
obstruct access to what they're there for, I'll prefer the real thing.