The Website as Form

/ May 2022

There exists among today’s hobbyists of all stripes a tragic teleology. It is understood that any hobby has the potential, if done adequately enough, to metastasize into an income-earning activity: the fearsome “side gig” or “hustle.” Naive and confused, I do not feel comfortable conceding all of my activities to the market. I retain some foolish hope that it is valuable to have non-commodified expenditures of labor, even if the fruits of said labor are discrete objects capable of being sold.

There is enormous psychological damage that is done by the commodification of all of our activities. It cripples the honesty and authenticity of hobbyist work when it is constructed through the lens of its product potential. There ceases to be a boundary between work and leisure: there is simply formal wage labor, and informal hustle labor. The only activities which survive are those which are not constructive: consumption of products seems to reign supreme as the default mode of leisure insulated still from the pressure of casual entrepreneurship. It is viewed as irrational to have a hobby which could be commodified but is not, at least for those of us who need to sell labor to survive.

There is little thought or critique popularly given to the crucial threshold moment when an activity passes irrevocably from the domain of self-actualizing leisure to production for profit. This transition is a fundamental qualitative transformation in the purpose of one’s work. It is a weird and violent thing to do, to make a source of joyful escape, of production for liberation, of personal artistic reflection, into another commodity unironically participating in the game.

This is why so many otherwise fascinating expressions of individuality, encountered frequently on the internet, bring with them a sour taste for the honest reader. How difficult it is to be reading, say, a travel blog detailing the author’s incredible and self-actualizing adventures, only to start to notice a festering necrosis within. Slowly scrolling through, one would be forced to notice the “recommendations” for certain travel-related products, the “affiliate links” slipped into the text, the “author’s bio” detailing how the protagonist gained emancipation from wage slavery by becoming a travel blogger hawking wares through adventurous tales. The reader realizes, tragically, that they are enmeshed not in an honest-to-goodness blog, but a labyrinth of advertisements and commodified experiences, the promised stories of liberation nothing more than the glossy ad-man’s veneer over the underlying products.

Even when a website does not explicitly commodify its contents, there is often the implicit reality that the contents themselves are the advertisements, and the commodity is the “brand” of the author’s personality. Such websites participate in the same hustle game by attempting to showcase the author as a product, their public-facing works a portfolio rather than expression for the sake of expression.

This is the trend which I would like to combat through the design and form of this website. It is not a side hustle. It does not advertise my personal brand.

This website is the last in a sequence of machines which transform random stimuli into public art. I, the human, am a machine which renders sense-data into narratives. My keyboard is a machine which turns my narratives into text. This website is a machine which displays text. That is the totality of its purpose and meaning.

So let work stay work and play stay play. I will grasp greedily onto my unsellable expressions until the bitter end. The contents of this website make no claims towards quality. I will not pretend that my writings are good or meaningful, or would earn any financial rewards if so attempted. I cannot give them identity, for I have none myself. They are simply lists of words which escaped from my mind, displayed mechanically, to be consumed casually and haphazardly by the wayward characters who stumble onto this effervescent page.