Just handed-in my Final Major Project and Thesis proposal, here is it ↓↓↓
SURF IS OVER, LET’S CYBERFLÂNE.
This isn’t a random wordplay but an actual statement. Take cyber and put flâneur; you got the verb, the term and the noun I want to dedicate my thesis study on. What do I mean by cyberflâner, cyberflânerie and its cyberflâneur – and how do I relate it to surfing? Wait, web surfing I meant.
Indeed, the area of my research is specifically the Word Wide Web and the act of surfing – and its relationship with the flâneur. This is the French way to name a man of leisure which was picked up by the scholar Walter Benjamin in the 20th century, and thus became the symbol of the modern explorer. As I aim to do it here, as the symbol of the digital explorer.
Fig 1. Windows 95 Commercial by Microsoft (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTOEiQSsCRk).
The World Wide Web has undoubtedly changed since its invention in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee. This is definitely to be broaden with the Internet, although the difference has to be mark. If the Internet – firstly ARPANET, has mainly been brought by the U.S Department of Defense to facilitate both communication and surveillance through a global networking infrastructure, the World Wide Web beamed with hope towards infinite explorations.
What exactly is the act of surfing? Here is the definition dated of 2004 found on Urban Dictionary:
Usually involves an individual browsing through the Internet, whilst not looking for anything in particular.
I particularly like the last bit: whilst not looking for anything in particular. This is how I relate it to the act of flâner. You put your time in that aimless stroll, mindfully observing the city and its surroundings; the self-awareness of this act is very important, and I believe the act of surfing encouraged that same self-awareness. We click from hyperlink to another hyperlink, surfing through the web pages as they are waves. Now, this isn’t much the case.
New (inter)actions has since taken place out of the known gestures: the click and the scroll. The first is quantifying actions – such as like and follow, while the later has transformed the way the World Wide Web is thought, as it has brought up the feed.
Indeed, the hyperlink has been overtaken by the feed, infinitely bringing us contents – personalized yet automatized contents through algorithms. Recommendations systems keep getting more and more accurate by gathering datas through our feeds. Therefore, the act of surfing has now an undermining importance. This has precisely been “damaged” by those algorithms: how relevant is the act of surf if this is influenced by my localization, my previous searches and my datas? That’s why I’m referring to the cyberflâneur instead.
With it, the act of reading has also subsequently changed: short(er), fast(er), and linear. The risk underlying the infinite feed is a trap of time and attention. I believe there isn’t much satisfaction through the feed: you can’t never get enough, precisely because you’ll always get more. This linearity impacts on the act of reading, and I believe personal development is at risk here – the development of oneself. That’s why the concept of individuation is important – as I understand it from the works of Bernard Stiegler  against the hegemony exerted by big corporations on the Internet.
Nevertheless, I still don’t believe that the Internet as a medium – is specifically making us any stupid: it’s about the way the (inter)actions are designed and how we use its. The development of cognitive skills happens through the act of reading – and writing, though I’m choosing to exclusively focus on that first act here. I want to demonstrate that the cyberflâneur is very much alive: he/she is aimless, absolutely not mindless – and yet certainly non-aware of his/her own status.
Rather than to provide an actual solution – that would definitely put my work into the realms of the screen, I aim to create a debate around the act of the cyberflânerie. That’s why I want to transcribe the act of cyberflâner into the physical world, through the production of an interactive installation.
Before that, a completed literature review is my first step into the writing part: my main routes are Walter Benjamin and its “flâneur”, Guy Debord and its “dérive”, and Marshall McLuhan and its “global village”. I believe that a systematic review is needed to reach the figure of the cyberflâneur through the understanding of concepts thought at different eras. An expert research on the cognitive aspect of the Internet is also much needed, to add physical substance to my theoretical research.
My main framework is experimentation: I will definitely cyberflâne myself, and might ask individuals to do the same – with the possibility to use brain sensors to track any changes, added to the expert research I’ll have. The writing part would thus definitely overlap with the production part at the beginning. This won’t be the end-result of my project, as I only intend to use it as a way to gather datas. I’m also inspired by Kenneth Goldsmith and his concept of “Wasting Time on the Internet”  – to find creativity into the act of procrastination. I plan to make use of this reflective practice by producing observations from the outcomes of its.
My other framework is the prototyping and research through it: which interactions represent the best the act of cyberflâner? I can’t find out by putting my energy through the end-production; I first have to test out and choose the better fit. For that, I also plan to conduct a field research using surveys – both online and in my physical environment, to generate thoughts and opinions behind gestures used and envisioned. A contextual research would also help me to define the existing practices in the use of the Internet as a medium.
Lastly, here are my two criteria of success: I want to get the individual to critically reflect on his/her actions on the World Wide Web, and hopefully encourage the act of the cyberflânerie.
Bell, D. (2008). Cyberculture Theorists: Manuel Castells and Donna Haraway. London: Routledge.
Carr, N. (2011). The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
ceramicstoday.com. (1998). The ‘Cyberflaneur’ -Spaces and Places on the Internet II – Ceramics: 05/19/98. [online] Available at: http://www.ceramicstoday.com/articles/051998.htm [Accessed 16 Jun. 2017].
 Goldsmiths, K. (2014). Why I Am Teaching a Course Called “Wasting Time on the Internet”. The New Yorker. [online] Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/wasting-time-on-the-internet [Accessed 16 Jun. 2017].
Hendel, J. (2012). The Life of the Cyberflâneur. The Atlantic. [online] Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/the-life-of-the-cyberfl-neur/252687 [Accessed 16 Jun. 2017].
Morozov, E. (2017). The Death of the Cyberflâneur. The New York Times. [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/the-death-of-the-cyberflaneur.html [Accessed 16 Jun. 2017].
 Spatial Machinations. (2013). Bernard Stiegler, “the Net blues”. [online] Available at: http://www.samkinsley.com/2013/11/21/bernard-stiegler-the-net-blues/ [Accessed 16 Jun. 2017].
Van Honk, J. (2016). The Web and its Wanderers. Institute of Network Cultures. [online] Available at: http://networkcultures.org/longform/2016/02/19/the-web-and-its-wanderers/ [Accessed 16 Jun. 2017].