Saturday, October 01, 2005

 

Mixed metaphors: where's my web surfboard?

New technologies confuse languages as much as they do the people who speak them. I have already written of the strangeness of the word "blog", but when I think about my own blog and its (my) obsession with places, I am reminded of the web's mixed metaphors. Already the web or the inter-net (la toile), is an interactive network composed of individual "sites" (itself composed of "pages"). Yet the threads of this web are never seen, the "links" in the internet chain remain simple highlighted hieroglyphs, like mini Aladin's lamps that instanteously transport us to far away places when we wave our prosthetic digital hands over their enigmatic signs. These hands on the screen are metonymically called "mice" because of the hardware used to manipulate them.
Nietzsche, in "Truth and Lies in the Ultra-moral Sense", reminds us that all words, all language, derives from metaphors, metaphors which we have forgotten. Language is always imprecise, it is always different from the object it describes. The seemingly idiotic choice of metaphors used to describe the unfamiliarness of the internet (how do you surf a web? Why aren't web pages web points or web waves? Is their an internet tide or undertow?), is a constant reminder that when we say anything we speak in metaphor. The very velocity with which new technologies are born and die guarantees that the terminology remains strange, the metaphors mixed and awkward, and that is how it should be...

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