This morning’s Observer column.
In Morozov’s view, something similar has happened to the internet. It’s no longer a place for strolling – it’s a place for getting things done. “Hardly anyone ‘surfs’ the web any more.” Mobile apps, which bypass most of the internet, make cyberflânerie less likely. And much of today’s online activity revolves around shopping. “Strolling through Groupon isn’t as much fun as strolling through an arcade, online or off.”
So Amazon is the equivalent of La Samaritaine – a place you go to buy stuff. And Facebook? Ah well, says Morozov, Zuckerberg wants to wipe out the individualism that was at the heart of flânerie. He wants everything to be “social”. “Do you want to go to the movies by yourself,” he asked recently, “or do you want to go to the movies with your friends?” His answer: “You want to go with your friends.” My answer: I’ll go by myself, thank you. But then I’m so 19th century.
Footnote: Earlier in the column I mentioned Newton’s First Law, a reference which prompted this lovely email from a reader:
“Sorry to be so pedantic, but when you mentioned Newton’s first law I think you had his third in mind. The third law states: the mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and co-linear. (The law is usually imprecisely stated: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.) How do I know? Well, I spent most of my working life teaching engineering dynamics at graduate and post-graduate level.”