Rituals of Transmission,
Fetishizing the Trace
World Wide Web: Diogenes’s ancient spirit infuses the
name. When asked from whence he came, the cynic is
said to have replied Kosmopolites—I am cosmopolitan:
a citizen of the world, without country, society, place.
The “cosmos” in cosmopolitan once referred to adorn-
ment and ordered arrangement; we see this etymologi-
cal linkage in the word “cosmetics.” In the same way
that cosmetics and cosmetic surgery refer to what is
visible on the surface or the skin of a body, both cosmo-
politanism and the Web organize an experience of what
is visible—a mobile worldview that articulates to cos-
mopolitanism’s related meaning of “rising to the top.”
By offering a view from the top, the Web contributes to
the production of value driven by desire—for the Web,
like a cosmetic, never fully takes leave of the bodies
and cultures it simultaneously appears to adorn, mask,
and alter. Its qualities of virtual space promise the cos-
mopolitan virtual pilgrim or wanderer the penthouse
view, and offer the detached cosmopolitical power of
the mind’s eye to see the world, including oneself, as a
picture. The Web, therefore, like the ideal of cosmopoli-
tanism, is an intersection-cum-fusion of art and life; it
remains profoundly ambivalent to modern sensibility.
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