Technologies and Utopias: the cyberflâneur and the experience of being online

Hartmann, M. 2004. Technologies and Utopias: the cyberflâneur and the experience of being online. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleTechnologies and Utopias: the cyberflâneur and the experience of being online
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsHartmann, M.

The thesis examines the historical moment of the transition of the Internet from a technology to a cultural form with widespread social use. It is a moment that contains traces of the utopian dreams of the early users of the Internet at the point when it became a widely available, accessible everyday resource. I examine this moment of transition in terms of a vocabulary of use that sought to give expression to the then novel experience of being online. These conceptualisation of use are called user types and usually appear as metaphors.
The first two chapters begin with metaphor, presented both in theory and in practice. This is followed by an introduction to cybercultural studies and cyberferninism, approaches which provide both inspiration and counterargument to the here presented approach. This framework is expanded in the fourth chapter, in which existing methodologies are outlined to introduce the virtual archaeology. This approach is inspired by the most important theoretical reference point for the thesis: Benjamin and his Arcades Project (and within that: cyberflAnerie). Benjamin's project emphasises the analysis of fragments, which are juxtaposed to illuminate an otherwise invisible meaning.
Similar structures are seen to exist online. These shape the particularity of the creation of meaning. Another important aspect of Benjamin is his emphasis on the city and the radical shift of modernity.
Each user type is seen to similarly express a reaction to the shock of the new, expressing particular utopian moments in Internet history. User types tell us something of the formation of discourses that complete the transformation of a technology from the technical into recognisable social and cultural identities. The user types analysed in detail are: the cyberflAneur, cyberfldneuse, webgrrl, cyberpunk, netizen, cybernaut and surfer. Their detailed analysis provides the second part of the thesis. The aspects referred to in the first part are all part of these analyses. Final reflections about the user types' role as specific communication tools, which shape the cultural form of the new medium, conclude the thesis.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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