I confess. I peed my pants during a junior high school band performance (my instrument: triangle). I have stolen from anonymous shops, friends and family members. I’m scared of spiders because I once found one in my underwear. I have never been molested, but once told someone I was, since it was the easiest way to explain my behaviour. Also, I drank too much at a going-away party for someone at my new job and began making up ridiculous stories to participate in conversations.
I confess. I have spent certain workday afternoons reading Grouphug, a site comprised of confessions anonymously posted. Or rather, “confessions.” Like the online journal (sometimes called, incorrectly, a weblog), like the forum flame-bait, like the pepperoni pizza, the online confession has already calcified into a macro of narrative. It may be overly presumptuous to typify this routine as “the insincere,” but the online confessional genre is, an inch below its surface, insincere; once my transgression is a story, then that was some other guy who fucked his sister/dog/sister’s dog, not me. The confessor is the star, relieved of the dirty secret as it becomes a serialized fiction. Your favourite LiveJournal may have more fully developed characters than a one-time anonymous posting, but the performance is no more nor less “real.”
Nevertheless, I confess. This is not an earnest discussion of Grouphug or blogging (although you should read those yourself and find what you can there). This is not a column about groupthink, group activities, Unix groups or newsgroups. This is the glib, ill-reasoned and, yes, insincere meta-introduction to my meta-confession: the I in “I” isn’t an I at all, but a we, a David and a Vanessa, co-authors extraordinaire.
When last I checked, we were real; he likes cashews and StarCraft, and she likes to wear black skirts and watch Futurama—all of which may come to bear in this space at a later time. But right now, I confess that we’re also just the infrastructure, the stand-ins for a concept. That concept, if “I’m” not mistaken, is a duality reconstructed into a fictional whole. That whole is David and Vanessa. That whole is going to appear here every other Sunday, ready and willing to deliver back-sass on the topic of “The Internet.” That’s our confession.
The Internet has become a concept loaded with many blanks, its mention requiring either an obliviously earnest tone of discovery or snaggle-fingered air quotes. But if it’s just any two linked systems, it might as well be the connection between this constructed identity of ours and you. Don’t get me wrong: the Internet is as real as can be; I get paid to wrestle with its unfortunate realities every day. But all the Internet means to the end user is access. We pay each month for a server’s attention, and when we’re unsure of the amount of flour that goes into a Dutch Baby Pancake recipe, or we can’t remember if hot coeds like to take it all off (they do), we ask that server and it tells us. We’ve got all the access we need right here. That other Internet is just a bunch of software running on a bunch of computers in some windy, insanely cold room somewhere. (As you may or may not know, server rooms are jam-packed with air conditioners and fans, with an air conditioner:server ratio of roughly 60,000:1.) You and “me,” we’ve got something special. All those wires and power strips? Screw that noise, we’re the new Internet.
The new Internet speaks the international language of love, not network protocols. Nerdly speaking, I am a major big-time liar here. Those frigid, windswept metal boxes—Web servers—are not really servers. A Web server is a helpful combination of hardware and software, and its particular driving kink is to accept requests from clients like the Web browser you’re using right now in a protocol known as HTTP, then to respond by sending your browser either the page for which you’ve asked or a polite error message, rejecting your fresh advances. Below, the sweet, moist conversations of the Internet:
GET / HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.6)
Gecko/20040206 Firefox/0.8 Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive, keep-moist
Right. Yet another reason our new Internet is jamtastic. Sure, we may need that old one for you to get here in the first place, but can you actually look at youngnhung.org at work, or when your mom’s around? Not a chance! Come take a ride with us, though, and we can at least talk about it. And what’s more, our top-drawer back end is finely tuned to include awesome jokes, awesome analysis, and—provided the good folks at Maisonneuve allow us—awesome guitar riffs. Dave and Vanessa (and you): The NEW Internet. We are two different people. We’re married. We even happen to have a fondness for the old infrastructure; it’s how we met, after all. Call and response, right? It’s how courtship works, and now we’re recruiting new nodes. Your servers this evening, your servants, serving it up.
As with the contents of the old Internet, we hope to provide you with information of incredible breadth and questionable quality. Unlike the old Internet, we cannot promise nude photos, nor can we vouch for the youth or length/girth of our content. The “**~aBOut~**” page of a teenage girl’s online narrative is as our voice in your head—a bizarre simulacrum. We’ll be carefully real for you so long as you keep showing up in the refer logs.