In the LA Review of Books, Gregg Lagambina interviews Jarett Kobek, author of the new novel I Hate the Internet: A Useful Novel Against Men, Money, and the Filth of Instagram. The book—set in San Francisco in 2013, as the second tech boom was overtaking and transforming the city—is a deliciously scathing and intelligent indictment of internet utopianism and the culture that surrounds it. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Kobek: I think the internet is, if nothing else, a giant communications network which has come to define what it means to be human in the present moment and it was created by people who have no relationship to the human experience. If there’s one idea in the book, it’s this idea that technology is embedded with the ideologies — spoken and unspoken — of its creators. And the analogue that the book uses to try and drive this home is the idea of the camera. People often compare television to the internet. That doesn’t seem right to me. The camera seems right to me, because the camera was a device that was fairly unheralded in terms of what it could do. Then, almost immediately, it became the definer of truth. The thing that’s weird about the camera — if you look at what the camera is really good at and what it’s really bad at — it kind of looks like the prejudices of mid-19th-century Frenchmen. You can’t think of a technology that has been more dehumanizing to anyone who isn’t of European extraction than the camera. The camera is really good at taking pictures of people of color — which is terminology I don’t like — and making them look terrible. It’s a quasi-mystical argument, but there’s really something there. Think about who made the camera. Think about where this emerges from. What did those guys really want to do? They wanted to take pictures of women and they also really thought anyone who wasn’t European, or possibly an American, was a savage. So then you have this device which goes forward which continues to dehumanize people that they didn’t think were human. Now, that’s some heavy shit [Laughs]. But, the internet is sort of the same thing. All of the things which we receive as given in the technology were the results of choices that were both conscious and unconscious of the people who made it. Or the people who are designing individual parts of the internet. A culture grew up around that. I think a lot of the problems that have emerged from the internet are actually the result of these ideologies.
Image of Jarett Kobek via Dazed Digital.