At the fringes of an increasingly hegemonic platform economy, there exists another web of anonymous forums and image boards whose unique “mask culture” the article aims to deconstruct by tracing its roots in the cyber-separationist imaginary of early internet culture, in a way that can be seen to undermine the new “face culture” of social media platforms like Facebook. The practices that characterize this “deep vernacular web” are anti- and impersonal rather than personal, ephemeral and aleatory rather than persistent and predictable, collective rather than individual, stranger-rather than friend-oriented, and radically public and contagious rather than privatized, filtered, and contained. Characterized by its ephemerality and anonymity, and preoccupied with dissimulative identity play, memes, and trolling, the set of subcultural attitudes that characterizes this part of the web can be summarized by the ironic and intentionally misspelled phrase “Teh internet is serious business.” By exploring the vernacular significance of this saying and how it can be seen to articulate an oppositional attitude to the currently hegemonic platform culture, this article simultaneously aims to contribute to contemporary debates on the reactionary turn in internet culture associated with the global rise of the alt-right.
Teh Internet Is Serious Business: On the Deep Vernacular Web and Its Discontents
Daniël de Zeeuw teaches new media at the University of Amsterdam and is a member of the Open Intelligence Lab. His recently completed dissertation analyzes the profane media logic of anonymous image-board culture, and his current research focuses on fringe internet phenomena from the combined perspective of critical cultural and media theory.
Marc Tuters is a researcher affiliated with the Digital Methods Initiative and the director of the Open Intelligence Lab. His previous research focused on media art in the built environment, for which he developed the concept of “locative media.” His current research focuses on how online subcultures constitute themselves as political movements.
Daniël de Zeeuw, Marc Tuters; Teh Internet Is Serious Business: On the Deep Vernacular Web and Its Discontents. Cultural Politics 1 July 2020; 16 (2): 214–232. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-8233406
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