In The Internet Imaginaire, Patrice Flichy takes a thorough and comprehensive look at the sociological history surrounding the creation of the. The Internet imaginaire, Flichy argues, led software designers, businesses, politicians, and individuals to adopt this one technology instead of another. Flichy . |[kH The Internet Imaginaire. By Patrice Flichy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, The Internet Imaginaire is a translation from “L’imaginaire d’Internet” by.

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I read the book while traveling on the TGV high-speed train from Nice to Paris, which couldn’t have been a more appropriate backdrop for perusing its pages. The Internet Imaginaire attempts to explain the emergence of the Internet through the framework of semiotics. It is said that thoughts of profound importance tend to polarize those who encounter them and I must admit that my experience with semiotics as a discipline has been no exception.

Kmaginaire I hesitate to agree that semiotics is actually imqginaire, it is certainly profoundly French, so my placement was well timed, although my subsequent confusion would have been equally difficult to deal with in far less lush landscapes.

In his introduction Flichhy relies heavily on the work of Paul Ricoeur, one of the originators of the semiotics. For those unfamiliar, it is a discipline concerned with exploring the deeper meaning of signs and symbols, and is a staple of communications studies.

My personal experience with semiotics is flichg wholly on a single class I took at Brown University where we explored semiotics, Auteur theory and the deeper meaning of films like Taxi Driver. They say that the hallmark of i,aginaire is that two scientists observing the same phenomenon should ultimately come to the same conclusion, and that is clearly not true for semiotics, where the main input is the Id of the observer.

Book Review: The Internet Imaginaire, by Patrice Flichy – Core77

As a scientist and historian, this frustrated me deeply, since it seemed a redundant exercise to try to figure out what Scorsese’s films were trying to say while the man was still alive and well in California. If I really wanted to know what he was trying to say I vlichy have picked up a phone. An old adage explains that those who try to guess the deeper meaning of other peoples’ actions are simply looking into the mirror that is their souls.

Instead of finding hidden meaning, they project their own demons. No where was this more clear than the moment when I thought of dropping my film class when the professor expounded for 20 minutes on the deeper meaning of Jimmy Stewart’s gift of “frankincense” to his small child for Christmas in It’s a Wonderful Lifeonly to have a particularly astute student at the back of the class observe that rather than frankincense, the child had been given a Frankenstein imqginaire I could have this backward I suppose, but it doesn’t really change the crux of the lesson — people can read meaning into anything.

A few re-windings of the reel later, the skeptics among us were rewarded: The Internet Imaginaire had what I would describe as hands-down the most difficult and convoluted introduction I’ve ever encountered. After I’d read it three times to no avail, my mother interceded.

She’d taken a class with Ricoeur at The University of Chicago, but she found the introduction just as difficult as I had. The introduction basically described the Internet as a “Mask Ideology” Ricoeur’s term where certain individuals needed to characterize the Internet as a utopian movement in order to compel the miaginaire of capitalism to actually bring it to fruition a “Legitimization” or “Mobilization” Ideology.

The whole endeavor had profound anti-capitalist and Marxist overtones, by which a nefarious big-brother or the like needed to manipulate public opinion to bring to the world their, well, New World Order, all in their own self-interest.

Flichy implies that certain individuals needed to popularize the idea of a “Watershed Utopia” to make the Internet happen — a vision of a imaginaide world that would be facilitated by the introduction of their ideologies and ideas.

It seems far more accurate to me to observe that people often make conclusions before a phenomenon has reached fruition, and that history carries on with or without them.

After reading the introduction, I must admit that I was completely furious, and more than a little confused by the terminology, but intrepid reviewer that I am, I soldiered on, intent to try to figure out just what this man was trying to say. While I must admit that I did come to understand Ricoeur’s framework somewhat better after reading the book, I was even more amazed to discover that Flichy had succeeded notably in one aspect: So if you’ve ever wondered quite where Al Gore is coming from when he proclaims that he “invented” the Internet, or what TCP has to do with your outgoing mail or precisely what IP implies, perhaps this is the book for you.


Because once you jettison the baggage of semiotics, Flichy has written a very thorough historical expose on the originations and causes of one of the major paradigm shifts of our day, the Internet. One of the reasons why Al Gore is able to claim authorship of the Internet is that our current global communications network has more than one “Auteur.

From there he then chronicles several early networks that grew in parallel to the ARPANET, spanning groups as diverse as The Well, which grew from California counterculture into the founding of Wired magazine, through the late night game-geeks that created the first Multi-User Dungeons MUDs in a merger of the computer and role-playing game communities, which evidently had a fair amount of cross-over.

In its second section The Internet Imaginaire examines the role of the Internet in popular culture. Here Flichy actually does begin to pull his initial if confounding argument together. Connecting futurists like Alvin Toffler, Cyberpunk authors such as William Gibson, and even open-source innovators like Linus Torvalds he describes the interaction between the Internet, politics and economics, going so far as to cite Canadian Marxist Arthur Kroker’s announcement of the arrival of a “virtual class,” where computer access and knowledge of “netiquette” would provide the foundations for a digital elite that would benefit from its connection to the worldwide knowledge base, leaving the unplugged disenfranchised.

As our culture moves toward a knowledge economy, such prognostications may well be accurate, but I would view a knowledge-elite as far preferable to landed aristocracy and primogeniture. Ultimately, like the Internet, The Internet Imaginaire covers too much territory to digest in a single sitting, yet alone a few hundred words of review.

By the final page, I had to agree with Flichy that the current manifestation of the Internet didn’t necessarily live up to the Utopian visions present at its founding, but what movement does? History itself is littered with failed ideologies, and while semiotics views the failure of ideologies as disappointing, I would reject that, positing instead that the very notion of an ideology, whether “mask,” “legitimization,” “Marxist,” “capitalist,” or even “semiotic,” is in itself dangerous and bound to be disappointing.

Instead, it seems that the Internet is wildly successful in being what we made it, a tool for liberal discourse, free economy and pluralism. It is a manifestation of our collective Ids, which apparently betray our appetites for pornography, gossip and cheap airfares. Any other characterization has inherent flaws. The Internet isn’t what it is because of Al Gore, or because of anyone else. It’s here because of us, the users, shoppers and the blog readers. Indeed, in their fruition, the Internet and projects like it resist and confound semiotic analysis because they are the product of many hands.

As such, I find Flichy’s use of semiotics as a framework somewhat confusing, when a capitalist or libertarian analysis would have suited it so much better. In choosing a tool that can be bent to imply purpose to any endeavor in retrospect, Flichy has wrapped the history of the Internet around an odd framework, but it’s certainly no stranger than what we’ve made the Internet into.

I’ve always felt that name recognition must be far preferable to the sort of fame found in Us Magazine. Somehow the hordes of paparazzi chasing Paris Hilton in the hope of catching her at her worst moments never seemed to have an appeal for me, but I’ve still always assumed For those you who need design all of the time–even in your fiction–meet Ethan Hoevel, a talented New York designer and the protagonist in The Tourists, a juicy first-novel by Jeff Hobbs.

He is seen and adored and he never has to Recently a great deal of attention has been paid to what makes some societies successful and others less so.

From the macroeconomic perspective, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel garnered a great deal of attention as well as a Pulitzer Prize for its exploration of the synergies that agrarian cultures Observers at the beginning of the 20th century would have been hard-pressed to have predicted the information revolution that we are experiencing now.


In their vision, flying cars would clutter our skies, but cellular phones imagknaire the Internet would be beyond the scope of their foresight. With this in mind, Don’t have an account?

Book Review: The Internet Imaginaire, by Patrice Flichy

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Straight to you every other flichyy. Join overdesigners who stay up-to-date with the Core77 newsletter Semiotics is a cult, like Freudian analysis. It’s about everything; it’s about nothing.

It describes, it entertains, but it doesn’t explain. None of the claims of its adherents can be contested legitimately by nonadherents. The key is not to produce knowledge or provide plausible interpretations, but rather to demonstrate and perform one’s role as a member. And no, I’ve never been burned by semiotics. I’ve read film theory and aesthetics and simply find the stuff tedious and intellectually wanting. But of course, that may just be my bias, which is toward material and rhetorical analysis, from a historical perspective.

I tend to shy away from ascribing motives to people, except insofar as they seem to be clearly participating in a cultural practice. Really it is my first visit,I found this post fascinating. Well, I received a number of replies to this review both via email and in post, which I suppose shows that the very nature of the word “semiotics” remains contentious. For my part, I freely admit that I’m not lettered in semiotics and have only had secondary experiences where people interested in guessing deeper meaning used semiotics as a frame for justifying their opinions.

In this case, I felt that Flichy did imply deeper meaning into the actions and choices of the players than he possibly could have known. More specificially, my concern is that I’ve had both positive and negative feedback from adherents of the same discipline, which implies to me that semiotics remains uncodified, fractious and unscientific. Perhaps I’m wrong, but for my part, I’m quite certain that I don’t fully understand semiotics, and I suspect that given its vagaries, similar claims could be made of virtually any of its proponents.

So let me invite people in this forum to refer me to works that might open my eyes to semiotics as it relates to subjects beyond literary and cinematic analysis. I fully agree with Greg B, and probably Donald Norman as well, that design is not about emotion at least not the designer’sbut instead is about accommodating the behavior of its constituency not the designer and provoking appropriate action.

Of course, I also fully support discourse in all its forms, and I eagerly await what the forums have to teach me. Semiotics is most assuredly not about guessing deeper meaning or authorial intention. The next time I hear some young or even aged IDer say his work isn’t about things, but rather emotions or experiences, I may suggest to him that he take a serious interest in semiotics, since semiotics is explicitly the study of how meaning is produced, maintained, and transformed.

Best post I’ve read on Core in ages. Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, by Michael Bierut I’ve always felt that name recognition must be far preferable to the sort of fame found in Us Magazine. By Xanthe Matychak – Jul 10, Summer read for designers For those you who need design all of the time–even in your fiction–meet Ethan Hoevel, a talented New York designer and the protagonist in The Tourists, a juicy first-novel by Jeff Hobbs.

The Internet Imaginaire – Patrice Flichy – Google Books

Hot-Wiring Your Creative Process, by Curt Inaginaire Recently a great deal of attention has been paid to what makes some societies successful and others less so. Imavinaire and Interior Design for the 21st Century Observers at the beginning of the 20th century would have been hard-pressed to have predicted the information revolution that we are experiencing now.

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