Vivian Selbo,

Vivian Selbo,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Dec. 8 1997 3:30 AM

Vivian Selbo,

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     At the end of November, I spent hours after work and on weekends in front of a computer that was hooked up to a VCR, slowly going through videotapes of TV commercials, using software to capture analog video images as digital files. I spent the better part of today working with those files, sitting at my drafting table, a huge pale green surface that dwarfs the room in which it sits (this is New York, after all), looking at my laptop computer screen and a 17-inch monitor. I was making animations. They will become part of a new Web project, a Web site, that I'm working on.           I really should go ahead with that as a subtitle. Rack and pinion steering, torque suspension, exhaust manifold, clutch, brake, rearview mirror (objects may be closer than they appear)--parts of the car as metaphors for a Web project looking at the ways people speak on the Internet. We all know the Internet is The Information Superhighway, but the road is only part of the story. What's traveling on the road is talk, and the names of car parts sound, to me, strangely like some made-up list of the Internet's rhetorical figures. (What is the digital equivalent of riding your clutch?)           A friend suggested, in e-mail, that I use geography as the organizing principle. I routinely run a simple UNIX function called "whois" or "nslookup" to find a real address associated with a Web site domain name that piques my curiosity, say from someone's e-mail address. The urge to physically locate an interlocutor is inescapable, and the question "Where are you?" is generally posed before "What are you wearing?" According to some e-mail humor circulating a while ago, Microsoft's slogan "Where do you want to go today?" was translated into Japanese as "Where do you want to get taken?" But after I spend some time looking at TV ads, I see that the car imagery is too good to pass up. Just look at today's New York Times"Week in Review," at the lead article on--what else--the Internet, "Highway Patrol: The Self-Appointed Cops of the Information Age." The automobile is overwhelmingly marketed via images of landscape, speed, escape, and the happy traveler. Isn't that imagery equally appropriate for what the Supreme Court calls "the most mass participatory medium yet invented"? As one car ad says, "More room, more power, more features." That's what the Net promises, right?

Vivian Selbo is a Web site designer and artist. She works at äda'web, a Web site that helps artists learn about, and create projects for, the World Wide Web. She lives in Manhattan.