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Ramblings

how the internet has affected the human psyche is anyone’s guess for now, but i have to imagine that for a group of us born between 1975 and 1995, the internet added an existential burden. like, it was this group—a bit of gen x, a bit of the millennials, and a few in between—that saw the internet before it was moneyed, around the time the USA peaking and calling it a joke. for a few brief years there, the world online felt truly revelatory & full of potential. now it’s facebook and nazis.

what i mean is, for a segment of the population, we’re watching two realities die at once. late capitalism came home to roost in the united states as global warming consumes the earth, while the internet has gone from the most concentrated source of human potential ever to a giant mall. go outside and the world is on fire, go inside and google tracks everything you do. not only has there been no stable concept of how to exist for any significant length of time since the late ’90s, but all options are going to hell anyway so there is very little apparent reason to give a damn.

there’s absolutely no way the technological acceleration and shift to a digital social environment hasn’t rewired humanity in some way (that is probably ongoing). we’re just seeing the beginnings of it, which is probably just adding to why nothing matters these days. shit gets exhausting.

A few months ago, I walked into the Los Feliz Post Office to mail an order out to the east coast. I wanted to send the envelope media mail, and in return, the teller asked what the contents of the package were.

“It’s a zine, a magazine,” I said. She looked up and replied, “I’m sorry, but you can’t send this media mail.”

Now, the publication I was sending has no actual classification. It’s an art project. It was intended to be the first of a series of periodicals, but is actually just as much a stand-alone work. Which is to say, it’s nothing really, definition-wise. However, I claimed it was a magazine based on both intention and the fact it has saddle-stitching (staples) as binding; not really a book, to my mind.

Yet the woman behind the counter knew nothing of this. She just had an envelope in her hand, and my definition of what was inside it. However, because that definition was magazine and not book—even though both would be equally applicable—the package didn’t qualify for media mail shipping.

Microcosms

Situations like this fuck me up. So much that it’s why I took this blog down—why it’s been down for some time, and why even posting this, I’m not sure of how long it will remain up. A blog is, after all, like my art project tucked in an envelope at the post office: not really defined accurately by any established precedent.1

Sure, this could be disregarded as the ultimate first world problem, but I see a deeper reflection of social fractures within interactions like this. The lack of consistent definition cost me $3.22 in shipping this one time, which was frustrating but understandable: books and magazines are historically different mediums and it’s logical the regulations for shipping them differ.

But now books and magazines are only different in physical application, and digital technology has produced any number of publishing methods that have begun to form a permanent presence in society while remaining relatively undefined in terms of practical utility. The world at large is still learning each day how to communicate with itself, and every new technological development has the ability to alter that process.2

Looking out at the general madness of, well, everything, it’s easy to see the consequences of inconsistency. The world people see online, or in any sort of media, aligns less and less with their immediate reality. Simultaneously, the traditional structures and functions of media have collapsed, allowing mechanisms of power to run rampant and relatively unchecked. In one hand, functional definitions are being rendered meaningless, and in the other, media-based public-interest programs are simply ceasing to function.

Basically, we’re all being told certain standards apply to maintaining the systems of the world, even though it’s quite well obvious they’re all subjective and bullshit.

In Progress

Like many Americans, an attempt at self-definition from within a Home Depot · Los Angeles, 2021

      Notes
  • Of course, the blog is a strange outlier because most other digital channels are corporately owned, and all content in some way belongs to them. The individual website manages at least some difference from the rest in terms of how content is framed online. While still a generally powerless medium, publishing online outside of any censorship potential is still something.
  • In turn, the purpose of a personal web-site, a blog, any kind of online presence, has shifted drastically in the 20 years I’ve been a part of the internet. Building a project with any kind of intention is difficult when the world in which you’re building it constantly changes, and so this project is guaranteed only in that will, at some point, end abruptly.
Respite

Look out to the ocean and know © A Better Internet Is Possible · Malibu, 2021

& Timeless Failures

I was 16 when I started my first blog—back in 1998 before there was really a word for blogging. Since then, internet self-publishing has undergone many changes, splits, and shifts. What’s interesting is these formats are initially defined by their limits: Instagram was photo-only, Twitter a character-limited text-based feed. Facebook’s Wall was just AOL IM’s Away Message, but each were these inceptions of the caption-as-digital-lifestyle movement.

All of these ideas provoke curiosity, especially as generational identity is formed by one social network or the next, or language barriers created by meme comprehension. And I’ve got projects in mind to work through those ideas. For this space, though, I’ve been trying to define a more considered approach: an attempt to create some purpose to this format, even if it’s as meaningless as the difference between a book and a magazine in an envelope to Rochester.

I recently finished Enrique Martínez Celaya’s The Blog: Bad Time For Poetry, and it was a refreshing dose of what seems like an almost lost foundation of the internet: the many individual websites that populated the space to begin with. I feel like, at this point, that’s about what I can offer online: a space free from the corporate and commercial interests that have come to plague the digital environment.

I suppose at this point, I’ve given up on trying to construct something of meaning, and instead creating simply out of a reaction to the chaos of reality, and hoping that in that construction among madness, someone out there finds a moment of clarity or sanity or just reprieve from it all. It feels like most of us in the world are destined for an era of meaningless words and wordless meanings. This is just where I’ll write about my experience with it all.

Briefly

Colin Smith is an interdisciplinary artist & art director living & working in Los Angeles. His assembly-based work focuses on human nature and its relationship to media, language, time, and systems of control.

For more information, social links, as well as various writings on practice & theory, visit the about page.

To quickly get in touch, e-mail hello@.

Colophon

This website is a hand-coded assembly built from the Skeleton framework and WordPress CMS; typeset in Plantin and Aktiv Grotesk by way of Adobe Fonts; hosted by Opalstack.

The primary navigation features a curated selection of work, while a mostly-complete archive dating back to 2015 is navigable by way of the Site Index.

All original content © to Colin Smith; please link back to this site or an associated media account when featuring work. Thank you for visiting.