Zero Comments is a jam-pack book full of theories about blogging, networks, and other issues related to blogging. It starts by noting that Web 2.0 began after the dot-com crash. ”Blogs, wikis and ’social networks’ such as Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, and Flikr were presented as the next wave of voluntary alliances that users seek online” (ix). One key feature of web 2.0 is that everyday citizens became part of the production of news. This could happen in real time and was a definite big change from how everyone got their news before web 2.0. Another point that Lovink makes, which I believe is very significant, is that “English content on the Web has dropped well below the 30 percent mark. Growth has also led to further nationalization of cyberspace, mainly using national languages, in contrast to the presumed borderless Internet that perhaps never existed. The majority of Internet traffic these days is in Spanish, Mandarin, and Japanese, but little of this seems to flow into the dominant Anglo-western understanding of Internet culture” (xi). There are several points here that are of interest. First, I personally never knew that less than thirty percent of the internet was in English and there must be some significance to this, which makes me think (2nd point) Lovink must have a point about the nationalism that was presumed absent from the net. Third, there must be something more to be said about the dominant Anglo-western view that many, including myself, hold about the internet being about bringing the rest of the world to take up English as a language for everyone.
Nihilism, which is usually a dirty word in most circles, is the subject of the first chapter. Lovink claims to be after a “creative nihilism that openly questions the hegemony of mass media. Blogs zero out centralized meaning structures and focus on personal experiences, not, primarily, news media” (1). I am understand how he is using the word here but, still, I cannot seem to get my mind wrapped around a positive view of the word nihilism. This nihilist view goes along with his statement that there is a search for truth in blogging but that it will be a truth with a question mark rather than an absolute truth (13).
New media is then described as a “transitional, hybrid art form, and a multi-disciplinary cloud of micro-practices” (41). This blurring of the lines between art forms seems to fit in well with his nihilist and blog theory. While Lovink is in most cases blurring lines between things as a main feature of web 2.0, one point made earlier does not seem to fit with this view, namely the nationalism point about language. In the case of language on the internet, it seems that rather than blurring any lines, there are very clear lines being delineated. It was just a little surprising to see that with his nihilist views, that he would bring up such a clear opponent to his view. This may be a minor thing but it was simply an observation I made. Back to the point about the arts, “The pope is no longer a patron of the arts. There is no longer a need for cathedral-sized immersive environments. Society has caught up with techno-Utopia – now it is time for reorientation for the artists. What new media art has yet to deal with is the miniaturization, up to the point of invisibility, of real existing devices” (79).
Furthermore, one key issue that is delineated as critical for Internet culture is the art of collaboration, where there is “life beyond the exhibitionist Weblog. Often people interact and work together on tasks and exchange opinions and materials. They also assist each other in technical matters. What defines the Internet and its protocols is not just its publicity potential, but also the deep underlying social architecture of this emerging medium” (207). This is one of the most fascinating parts of the book in my opinion. I have been thinking for a few weeks now on the thesis that all that goes on on the internet can be called smart mobs in one way or another. Collaboration for one purpose or another is still consistent with the smart mob definition in my opinion, at least at this point in my thought process. The last chapter deals with organized networks, which again goes right along with the collaboration and smart mob idea. Lovink argues that networks, despite their chaotic nature, should be organized. This, again, seems to be consistent with my idea about all that goes on with networking, collaboration, and things that sound like it can be said to be “smart mobbing” in some fashion. I will think more on this subject and talk more about it in the second half of my set of readings in order to see if what I am thinking now will still be true when I read the material on smart mobs.