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The 130th NZ issue is centred around a number of technological and social themes of modernity. These themes are especially timely today as the issue is going to print at a time when the world is fighting a pandemic, with its attendant deep and fast transformation of everyday practices and social consciousness.
The issue’s two major topical sections discuss technological, social and cultural aspects of two periods: “high” modernity (the first half of the last century) and “late” modernity (mainly the past 30 years). These are complemented by some of the material included in the remaining sections.
Let us begin with the contemporary era, featured in the first part of the issue, under the heading “A Social History of the Internet”. In the last few years, the internet, having radically changed our lives, has outgrown its status of a phenomenon considered merely from the technological, political, economic, social and cultural points of view. Special attention is now given to the history of the internet, its interpretations, as well as discussions of whether, in addition to the canonical version of its history, there exist alternative – usually unrealised – routes and possibilities for its development. The section, guest edited by Polina Kolozaridi, begins with her introduction to the above range of issues, “The History of the Internet: Under Construction”. The Dutch internet scholar Marianne van den Boomen (1955–2014), whose work is recognised as classical in the early stage of internet studies, offers a brief survey of the process whereby “the online” is transformed into “the social”: “How the Digital Becomes the Social”. Maria Rakityanskaya and Paolo Bory’s fascinating subject is the history of global communication images as exemplified by maps of telecommunication structures, beginning from the first telegraph cables laid on the bottom of the ocean in the late 19th century. The American researcher Kevin Driscoll and the French scholar Camille Paloque-Berges provide a general view of the history of internet studies in their article “Searching for Missing «Net Histories»”. One very important and typical example of such a “missing” story in the history of networks is the story of the Tomsk internet (Tonet) in the 1990s – early 2000s. Leonid Yuldashev’s piece reconstructs in great detail the birth, development and decline of the Tonet. The history of the internet as a subject of contemporary art and one of its areas of appropriation is the focus of Anna Shchetvina’s article about two exhibitions inspired by “old websites”. The section concludes with Dmitry Muravyev’s summary of an extremely important book on the subject in question, Finn Brunton’s “Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet”.
Published alongside “A Social History of the Internet” is the latest instalment of NZ Interview. The guest editor Polina Kolozaridi talks to the historian of science and technology Ksenia Tatarchenko in “How Did You Come to Like These Calculators so Much?” The conversation touches upon the history of Soviet digital technologies, computers and calculators, their production and uses.
The articles about the history of the internet and digital technologies acquire a somewhat different – political and ideological – dimension in the light of Alexander Kustarev’s regular column Political Imaginary. His essay “Socialism, Capitalism and the State” examines the key issue of control, its justification, organisation and mechanisms. As the contemporary history of the internet demonstrates, the state assumes control over this sphere, once free and ungovernable; consequently, the means of state control depend on political, ideological and cultural contexts characterising a given country.
The question of relationships between socialism and capitalism, their possible intersections and the links between this subject and the social and cultural traditions of individual states is further analysed in the issue’s next section. Its subject is one of the most influential art movements of the last century, the Bauhaus, the quintessential embodiment of modernity in culture, town planning and politics. The capitalism vs socialism fight is inextricably linked both to the history of the movement and to the history of its later reception. This comes as no surprise, given the level of political engagement typical for the theory and the practice of the Bauhaus. The section “The Fate of the Bauhaus: Memories of Modernity” opens with an article by the German cultural historian Beáta Hock, “The Bauhaus: A Laboratory of Modernity and a Springboard to the World”. The Bauhaus as a “laboratory of modernity” is further studied by the German historian Thomas Flierl in “Between Recognition and Denial: Hannes Meyer and the Soviet Criticism of the Bauhaus in the 1930s”, which analyses the Soviet reception of the work and ideas of the school’s second director, the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer. Another German researcher, Arnold Bartetzky, also talks of the “socialist reception” of the movement, perhaps the most socialist of all 20th-century tendencies in art, architecture and design. His article “From Destruction to a Cult? The Evolution of the Reception of the GDR’s Architectural Heritage” focuses on the legacy of the Bauhaus in the GDR. Urban architecture is also the subject of “Multitudes of Meaning. Katowice: Perceptions of 20th-Century Architecture” by the Polish architectural historian Anna Syska. It looks at the case of Katowice, a city considered to be an exemplar of modernist architecture. The Ukrainian expert Pavlo Kravchuk writes about interwar architectural modernism in the city of Zaporizhzhya. The section ends with a piece by its guest editor, the sociologist of architecture Mikhail Ilchenko, who in “Architecture of Modernism as a Metaphor for an Era: New Narratives” turns to the contemporary rethinking of the place and role of the Bauhaus in the modern project.
Also in this issue are Aleksey Levinson’s regular column Sociological Lyrics, featuring “Genders at the End of Winter”, and Alexander Pisarev’s survey of Russian intellectual magazines. The issue ends with the New Books section, which includes, among other pieces, Denis Shalaginov’s review of Reza Negarestani’s bestselling “Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials”.