Culture has always been produced in a network; but now the network is online. Much has been made of the internet’s erosion of trust in figures of centralized authority, whether they be bankers (money), journalists (civil society) or scholars (truth). But the shift is less about decentralization than derealization. The French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari—favorites of the new online right who are often cited as prophets of the internet’s disruptive social power—called it “deterritorialization.” The online world is not so much a different kind of order, as its patrons have always claimed—anarchic, horizontal, free—as a different kind of space—smooth, pliable, virtual. Like a video game, virtual space unfolds as a vector, continuously reshaping itself in an informatic feedback loop. Have you noticed that when you navigate with your phone you never actually know where you are? With Google, the map becomes the territory: in order not to become lost, you have to insert yourself into the world on screen. You arrive when the dots match up.
In the virtual sphere, everything is already a symbol; we navigate in a vacuum. The “downtown scene” was something you could make fun of in Brooklyn and be a part of in Berlin: either way it was the internet where things seemed to be happening. And yet: the internet itself seemed to be, somehow, “happening” more intensely in New York. Urbit imagines itself as a new and fully virtual world, but for now, the vibes still needed a medium, and New York was the ultimate test. Urbit Week was, as Frank described it to me, an experiment. “The thought was: we throw some parties and see how it goes. It’s vibe-testing—you can’t fake whether a party is good.”
It's somewhat different in the provinces, thankfully.I tried paying for drinks in cash a couple times last night and got the same slightly embarrassed look and response from staff that they don't do that anymore. Strange feeling to have something once so fundamental disappear before your eyes. Feels like you're inconveniencing people now. A dirty old world thing, like smoking cigs.