Is the web suburban?

Is the web suburban?

November 16th, 2009  |  Published in Ideas  |  3 Comments

I’ve been reading Suburban Nation (thanks Sherri) and it made me look at new media ecologies with a city planning eye.  I wonder, is the web suburban?  Do we have memorable, open commons or digital cul-de-sacs?  Certainly, many government sites like the Illinois Tollway site quickly feel like I’m getting lost or running into dead ends.  Are online retailers generally becoming more like mom and pop stores or big boxes?  While the architecture of the web certainly allows for multiple routes through and across sites (akin to traditional city streets), typical navigation structures tend be tree-like which seem more like the disorienting and disconnected street patterns of subdivisions.  Are big infrastructure centers like Google or Amazon like suburban collector roads?  Is this city planning model even a capable metaphor for thinking about information ecologies?

Subdivision photo by futureatlas.com via Flickr.

  • Alistair

    There’s something to be said for nominative determinism and the internet. People have ascribed terminology to the internet that reflects their own particular ideologies and interests. Think of Bill Gates and Negroponte using the term ‘information superhighway’, the metaphors of commerce and business come to the fore. Conversely, something like the Electronic Frontier Foundation evokes in its very name notions of the ‘Wild West’ and ideas of an untamed wilderness. The internet is what you make of it.

    Just my thoughts.

  • I’m remembering fondly how GeoCities used to organize its content by neighborhoods. This was in language only since the neighborhoods separated out related content rather than reflecting healthy non-virtual neighborhoods that reflect mixtures of commercial, residential, and civic uses.

  • Alistair

    It’s a pretty cool debate, the semiotics of semantics and all that. It has a tendency to disappear up its own arse, but then again all academic stuff does. I like how it also bleeds over into online ‘worlds’ too, that you can have many ‘shards’ that make up a cohesive universe.

    I am possibly overthinking this.