|If the city is crowds . . .
How are we to experience the city?
For Walter Benjamin, it is a question of observation. A specialized observation, involving the attachment of the flâneur not the attachment of the badaud. The simple flâneur is always in possession of his individuality, whereas the individuality of the gawker disappears. It is a question of attachment to oneself, and involvement without the city. As an electronic flâneur, it is easy to lose one's attachment within the city that is the web.
"The street becomes a dwelling for the flâneur; he is as much at home among the facades of houses as a citizen is in his four walls. To him the shiny, enameled signs of businesses are at least as good a wall ornament as an oil painting is to the bourgeois in his salon. The walls are the desk against which he presses his notebooks; news-stands are his libraries and the terraces of cafés are the balconies from which he looks down on his household after his work is done." Walter Benjamin, 1938.
"The crowd was the veil from behind which the the familiar city as phantasmagoria beckoned to the flâneur. In it, the city was now landscape, now a room. And both of these went into the construction of the department store, which made use of flânerie itself in order to sell goods. The department store was the flâneur's final coup. As flâneurs, the intelligentsia came into the market place." Walter Benjamin, 1935.
Now let us imagine the flâneur
ambling throughout the network of the Internet
like a city. Suddenly his role is made ten times easier. He no longer is
labeled, he can view without being viewed, and even the badaud can gawk
without the appearance of rudeness. The detective can work under cover
and all can bear the name of alias without shrugging.