Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
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Providence, RI 02912
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One of the most interesting concepts to me that we have discussed in class this semester is Auge’s idea of ‘non-place’. Although many of Auge’s specific examples fall apart upon closer inspection, the broad categories and characteristics of the term ‘non-place’ can still provide insight into societal organization. One of the most obvious examples that conforms to Auge’s concept of ‘non-place’, as I noted in a previous commentary, is the internet. Entry requires a very literal contractual relationship with internet providers and many websites require identification in order to access the information, services, etc that are provided within. Once identification is given, individuality is ceded and the solitary contractuality of the ‘non-place’ creates a single monolithic and anonymous identity for all users. The very structure of the Internet complies with Auge’s geometric metaphor of viewing place as lines, the intersection of lines and the point of intersection (46). The Internet is the very embodiment and combination of ‘non-place’ and supermodernity. This example, however, when scrutinized further shows some of very same weaknesses and gaps that that arose in our examination of Auge’s examples of ‘non-places’. The Internet fails to fit the definition of a place that is not relational, historical nor concerned with identity. Social networking sites, encyclopedia sites such as Wikipedia and web applications such as Google Earth and Second Life break through this definition to create place and interactions which would not be possible in a ‘non-place’. The Internet seems to fit neither of these molds, structured by society to be a ‘non-place’ but employed by people through place-making. Instead, the best category for the Internet may be Foucault’s concept of the heterotopia. As a social creation that exists in every culture and every civilization, Foucault’s heterotopia evades the trap of egotistically viewing our current state of supermodernity as fundamentally unique and exceptional compared to the rest of human history. Many of the other characteristics of heterotopias fit reasonably with the Internet.
In this paper, I will further explore how the Internet fits within the concepts of place, non-place and heterotopia. I propose that the inherent desire to create place in a landscape can be seen even within supermodernity through the use of the Internet. This process of place-making on the Internet has permeated all aspects of the pre-Internet society, including archaeology. Through websites such as Archaeolog and web applications such as the OKAPI islands on Second Life and Rome Reborn on Google Earth, archaeology has contributed to creating a deeper palimpsest of history on the internet which stretches beyond modernity and farther into the deep past.
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