Chapter

Preface “What's Cool?”

Alan Liu

in The Laws of Cool

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780226486987
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226487007 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.003.0008
Preface “What's Cool?”

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On one of the best known pages of its web site in 1996–1997, Netscape asked: “What's cool?” The answer offered on the page quickly passes over the “we” who do not yet know what cool is (“someday, we'll all agree on what's cool on the Net”) to install a “cool team” charged with generating an empirical definition of cool—a list of web sites. These are the sites, the team says (itself now appropriating the first-person plural), “that catch our eye, make us laugh, help us work, quench our thirst...you get the idea.” What is information cool? Structured as information designed to resist information, cool is the paradoxical “gesture” by which an ethos of the unknown struggles to arise in the midst of knowledge work. Just four themes of cool in the information age—each phrased as an assertion about the life of information, followed paradoxically by its contradiction—will provide an adequate dossier. Cool is, and is not, an ethos, style, feeling, and politics of information.

Keywords: cool; Netscape; web sites; knowledge work; information age; ethos; style; feeling; politics

Chapter.  1618 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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