n. A person who surfs the web with no purpose beyond curiosity and inquisitiveness.
Intrigued, I set out to discover what happened to the cyberflâneur. While I quickly found other contemporaneous commentators who believed that flânerie would flourish online, the sad state of today’s Internet suggests that they couldn’t have been more wrong. Cyberflâneurs are few and far between, while the very practice of cyberflânerie seems at odds with the world of social media.
The practices of cyberflaneurism and cyberphotography differ significantly from traditional flaneurism in this regard. Where the 18th-and 19th-century flaneur sought to evaluate and describe modern transformations in work, politics and public life more generally and the collective consciousness given rise to by these changes, cyberflaneurs-cum-street-photographers inhabit an environment shaped by an ever-increasing publicization of private life.
I see the value of cyberspace not in the replacement of our cities, but in its potential to rekindle our fondness for and fascination with urban environs. The attraction that it exerts on the millions that stroll through its maze of information might be used to reinvigorate our cities. Cyberflaneurs have become captivated with the Internet's ready supply of huge amounts of information that they can access at all times of day or night.
The word flaneur, a saunterer or "man about town" (there's an old-fashioned phrase for you) comes from the French flâner, "to saunter idly", and first appeared in English around 1854. A cyberflaneur is also known as a virtual flaneur, a term that also dates to 1997 (and in fact its first use is in the same essay as the earliest cite for cyberflaneur; see page 290).