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The Internet as we knew it during the explosive growth in the nineties was shaped by two cultural forces. The most obvious was the DotCom boom. That was mostly a game for the suits, so it never became a defining part of the Internet's culture. The other force instead was very influential, in fact shaping the DotCom explosion. That force was TheWELL. Not TheWELL as we know it today, but the culture of self-titled digerati that thought about how the Internet should and would be that was most characterized by the community on TheWELL during the early nineties and before.

If historians wanted to describe MeatBall in the future, perhaps they'd be bold enough to call it PostWELL. MeatBall exists in a time where we know and understand the Internet because we've seen it happen, not just as an experiment for the technical, but as a socially pervasive medium. This was the ultimate vision of TheWELL, but they didn't have the luxury of it actually existing before postulating their theories. Everything they thought was speculative, and because they were reacting in part to the cynical PostModernism?, mostly what they thought was somehow idealistic (if not necessarily utopian). And when the DotCom Internet happened, which in part too was a reaction to a cynical PostModernism?, it took these ideals and made them real.

The trouble was that the ideals were not realistic. A realistic look at the Internet reveals nuances unnoticed and premises unsound that combined together create a much different ultimate experience online. This experience is where MeatBall sits. We have a reality to explore, not merely an imagination.

Before we get too far away from our roots, let's understand that much like PostModernism? necessarily includes Modernism, PostWELL necessarily includes TheWELL. Much of the Internet today is still rooted in these older ideas, just as much of society is still Modernist. MeatBall will have to explore these historical ideas just to get a sense of where we are today. When we do this, we'll also find that many of these ideas have merit, much like a proper understanding of PostModernism? gives Modernism some credit. Therefore, a proper treatment of OnlineCulture is not an opposition to TheWELL, but an honest rethinking.

So, if anyone wanted to characterize the philosophy of being that MeatBall represents, and perhaps the whole Internet in a few years, it would be just that: honest thinking. You can see this in every major idea we've had so far. If we continue on this track, we might one day have those historians talking about us, although that's a bit of dishonest fantasy in itself. The reality demands that we just continue quietly BarnRaising, of course. -- SunirShah

Just a bit of selfish egostroking, but an idea I think neatly summarizes the underlying strains of much of what's here.

the next TheWELL? Well, of course that's what we'd like it to be but who can say if it's there yet. Not I; I don't have the money to join TheWELL at this time, although MeatBall certainly seems to fit from what I hear about it. Ironic, though, that this page, talking about TheWELL being overly idealistic, is itself stating an ideal for MeatballWiki rather than a hard fact.

Not the next WELL, just after it. It's not as if I really believe MeatBall is going to be the basis of all Internet thinking in the future (nor would I want that because that would defeat LimitTemptation!); it's just that I think we feel we are past the beginning of the public Internet. Nonetheless, you're right that it's silly to even talk about this as a hard fact. It's just a cute idea I've been thinking about when considering a thesis application. -- SunirShah

Thesis application? I thought you were done?

Anyhow, this does seem to be a coherent "school of thought". One problem with the "post-X" way of naming schools of thought is that it makes them sound somewhat final, and also somewhat condescending to their predeccesor. I guess that is not inherent in the name, though (post-X could be taken to mean "grew out of X"). Maybe it is the fault of "post-modernism" for giving everyone the feeling that it claims "modernism is so over" and also that it is the end (I don't know what it really claims, I haven't studied it, but that's the impression everyone gets).


Collection of ideas

So, what are our PostWELL ideas? Ignoring the point of enumerating the ideas of TheWELL.

References

Streeter, T. (2003). The romantic self and the politics of Internet commercialization. Cultural Studies, 17(5), 648-668.


Discussion

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