Ben Tarnoff on nostalgia, imagination, and deprivatizing the internet
Many movements throughout history have looked to an imagined past, and indeed actively constructed an idea of the past, in order to envision a better future. And often there’s a lot of political utility in making people feel as if they’ve lost something—a set of rights, a set of freedoms—that they now need to reclaim. Even if it’s not entirely clear if those rights or freedoms existed.
It’s also important to point out that internet nostalgia is a constant of internet history.
What if we could feel nostalgic not really for those previous eras of the internet that the onward march of privatization has obliterated—whether GeoCities or Myspace or even farther back—but what if we could feel nostalgic for the missed opportunities, for the forks in the road that could have gone a different way, for the the points in history in which privatization was deepened when the internet could have evolved in a different channel? Then perhaps nostalgia could be an aid to the social movements that will be necessary in order to deprivatize and democratize the internet.
We use the internet in the privacy of our bedrooms, or in the glow of our smartphones. What if our experience of the internet could be a more collective one, and one that brought us into relationships of solidarity and mutual support with other people in our community? So to that end, I think what the Equitable Internet Initiative is doing could provide a promising starting point for thinking about connecting differently through the internet.