As Aaron already gave a good summary of the chapter, I will go straight to discussing some points that I found interesting.
Varnelis draws a parallel between the sociocultural shift from modernism to postmodernism and the shift from postmodernism to network culture. Postmodernism, as he said, “called high and low in question”, and network culture has taken a step further and erased that distinction completely, so even the question does not exist. So in constructing the poetic reality, anything that is already there can be used – be it artist’s everyday life (self-exposure), amateur videos on YouTube (remix) or computer-generated selection of news on internet (information visualisation). Boundaries are blurring between artist and curator (remix), artist and audience (participation), and so are boundaries between art and non-art. When postmodernism was using theory to shatter the subject and question authorship, network culture is not only taking for granted the freedom from subject and authorship/originality but is also dismissing any importance of historic context and theory. Network culture is not concerned with resistance or opposition.
What is left is just reality. Except that it is not just reality, its immediated reality, “a condition in which mediation is given”. Network culture is dissolving boundaries between the real and constructed. Varnelis gives an example of photographer Thomas Demand, who creates sets out of cardboard and paper, then photographs them so that they appear “almost real”. Carnegie International (http://www.cmoa.org/international/html/art/demand.htm ) described Demand’s work as “one or more steps removed from reality, creating tension between the fabricated and the real”. As more and more of our culture is becoming immediated experience (as opposed to immediate), the more we question the nature of reality. What seems like reality, can be constructed; what seems unreal, can be true; reality can be manipulated into a script (documentarian turn) or presented as completely random and fragmentary selection. Network culture is playing with our sense of reality.