In 1863, at the beginning of “The Painter of Modern Life,” Charles Baudelaire described the visitor to a museum who stops only at the most known works, then believes they know the museum. He uses this as a lead-in, as:
an excellent opportunity to establish a rational and historical theory of beauty; to show that beauty is always and inevitably of a double composition, although the impression that it produces is single—for the fact that it is difficult to discern the variable elements of beauty within the unity of the impression invalidates in no way the necessity of variety in its composition. Beauty is made up of an eternal, invariable element, whose quantity it is excessively difficult to determine, and of a relative, circumstantial element, which will be, if you like, whether severally or all at once, the age, its fashions, its morals, its emotions. (Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, London: Phaidon Press, 1995, 3).This last element requires knowledge and active engagement on the part of the viewer. The flâneur who cannot engage in this way, ingesting both aspect of beauty, but who only sees one or the other of the two can never appreciate the full extent of beauty—or of knowledge or of the Web and its possibilities. There are, then, two flâneurs, one who can comprehend and combine, and one who simply observes. The former “is not wandering aimlessly, but rather assembles 'raw materials' for the production of culture and identity. So, if early users of the initial incarnations of the web were more 'alienated' and passive, the active users of the Web 2.0 might reflect a desire to take control of the 'alienating space' by 'aestheticising' and 'colonising' it” (Simon Lindgren, “From Flâneur to Web Surfer,”), a far cry from passive observation or simple utilization.