Digital Onomastics, Frenetic Place-Names

What happens to onomastics or proper place-names with infusions of the
digital? How do the logics of the web, networked writing and folksonymy
let loose (a plentitude of named small-pieces, loosely joined) the
propriety of an onomastics founded on scarcity, where place-names refer formally
to physical locations and also depend upon authorization, a kind of official
license? We will have one name and one name only! Erm, okay, two…two
names. No more. Granted, place-names or toponyms are not altogether
unraveled or let loose. Kansas is still "Kansas," or "KS," even in Google Maps (at
a certain scale, though, the name vanishes because it’s too specific,
too local; KS fades into anyplace). But while these stabilized place-names
remain on highway signs and also showing at certain scales of the
cybercartographic mash-ups, the digital introduces a capacity for differently
circulating and contending name systems. Toponyms are further compounded. For now I don’t care whether
we’re online or on I-90. New (by which I mean not pre-fixed), folksonomic names
and tags don’t automatically replace the official names, although they might one
day contend with them and even displace them or unsettle them a bit.

Maybe the questions are all wrong. What is the tie between tagging and
place-names, whether space is prefixed with geo- or cyber-? No, no, that’s
not quite it either. Or else it is, and I’m not able to come up with a
satisfying answer. But the digital seems to awaken something
between protocols (IP addresses and URLs) as place-names and cartographic
toponyms (physical place-names on maps) as tags. In other words, online
mapping apps make me think that something shifts (or is brought nearer together,
maybe) between official geographic place-names and Weinberger’s idea of the web
as "places without space." The web’s geography of place-names mixes the
proper, the common with the improper and uncommon, with the uncanny and
anachronistic (even if the a href requires syntactic precision).

Here you could have just read Weinberger’s "Space" chapter. Credit to
Jeff’s stuff
for getting me to think about this, too.


  1. This is the place(s) of exciting work and thought. The implications are professional (the places of professional identity and so on), rhetorical, inventive, and on and on.

    No doubt your diss will move through this stuff in interesting ways.

  2. Yes, I like the move to take this to professional identity (what you do with the Maccabees Building, right?), to online -nymity, alma maters, where-froms, influence-tracing, etc.

    With the diss, I imagine that a chapter or two will take up some of this.

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