A suite of essays on Facebook in the New York Times Sunday Review this week includes a contribution by local legal scholar Lori Andrews, who was featured in December in the Reader‘s People Issue. (My boss, Mara Shalhoup, is treating Andrews’s piece elsewhere.) I was particularly befuddled by Evgeny Morozov’s “The Death of the Cyberflaneur,” which takes the discussion in a direction . . . you wouldn’t expect. Morozov laments the passing of what he calls the “cyberflaneur” (actually the term was coined on a website called, for some reason, Ceramics Today), based on the original, more corporeal flaneur—the boots-on-the-ground flaneur. A 19th-century French ideal whom Baudelaire and Benjamin (stay with me here) viewed as “an emblem of modernity,” the flaneur in Paris “would leisurely stroll through its streets and especially its arcades . . . to cultivate what Honore de Balzac called ‘the gastronomy of the eye.’ . . . His goal was to observe, to bathe in the crowd, taking in its noises, its chaos, its heterogeneity, its cosmopolitanism.”
OK, now think about GeoCities circa 1995.