The future returns from the past. Yesterday’s future left unchecked, comes back to haunt. Not the great expectations of that high modernist period, but those dangerous potentialities and instrumentalist horror that ran alongside it.
Nothing much feels real any more, at least not in the way I’ve grown to expect real things to feel. Even events that directly concern me are experienced as if they’re behind a screen placed there to transmit the spectacle. The anguish of unreality is most acute when you try to sense the sadness and horror caused by “the planet’s little wars [which are] joining hands” (Sweet Bird of Truth, The The), and the world’s little climate disasters which are joining hands, and yet it somehow doesn’t feel like it’s happening. You know our species has a shared interest in preventing such things, and even as you protest, one banal social media post can distract you and make it feel like it can’t really be happening anyway.
Banality reigns supreme, at the same time as situations that should deeply alarm us collectively unfold. And as information sharing speeds and increases, we find it far easier to share things that reassure us/things that make the world seem childish, a depolitised, dehistorised ever-present of fun/funny/adorable things.
Re-repeats of our alcohol-based social events, which (if all goes to plan) usually result in a -re-laugh and re-listening to old-time favourite songs, now (I would argue) work alongside the social media banality, and life is lived as if in an eternal now. As the dynamic of capitalism requires ever-faster and ever-more intrusive cyberspace technologies mediating life, life feels so fast that it no longer feels like we are moving, just on a stuck record, going round and round. This has lumbered us in the eternal now, or at least, what feels like an eternal now…
The night after yet another heavy weekend night’s drinking in town, feeling more content than usual due to the passivity caused by the numbness felt the day after, I was hit by an unexpected reality check whilst I lay in bed. With the intensification of conflicts in areas in a land mass, generally speaking, between Europe and Asia, bringing all the superpowers into potential conflict, whilst I lay in bed in this supposedly post-Cold War world, I suddenly thought “is it plausible that nuclear war could actually escalate at any moment?”
As much as we know it has always remained possible, it doesn’t feel possible any more, it feels like it fell with the Berlin Wall, and was cosigned to books after Francis Fukuyama’s proclamation that we’d reached ‘the end of history’. But at that moment it did feel possible, I was momentarily jolted from the laughing/sedatory gas of the banal. Remembering the alcohol-soaked walking down a street in a town with the highest concentration of pubs in the UK (at one point, apparently), depicting this reality check felt like a necessity.
Underneath the street-scape is a near past of activity and desire to change the world. Theorist Slavoj Zizek described this period (2011) as the year of dreaming dangerously. Since then this impulse seems to have been covered over, drained and exhausted by the very media-scape from which it gained its initial collective body. There as been a noticeable intensification of information sharing even from 2011 onwards, coupled with the disbelief and apathy the powers that be have brought about, with an ever increasing influence over the shaping of our opinions and reactions in the information age, whilst they the impose an ever-more draconian economics onto us. No wonder we wish to drink to reach the reassurance of passivity, and share reassuring information via cyberspace.Yet, within this depicted landscape, the covered-up near past still offers a glimmer of a way out of this.
Total immersion in cyberspace has slowly given me this sense that I have died, but I can’t figure when this happened (probably in the past 3 years). Yet, at the same time it seems like cyberspace’s infiltration of my nervous system (the information superhighway’s merger with the bloodstream) is the only thing keeping me alive. If, like the half Cyborg/Half human teen-protagonists in M.T Anderson’s novel FEED , something happened to completely ‘disconnect’ me, the true horror of that which cyberspace accelerates into unreal, far-away, sound-bite, would suddenly become too real, and potentially too much to endure.
The “Zero” century (Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi) began the day the ‘real horrorshow’ spectacle of the collapsing Twin Towers was melted onto our minds like media napalm. More blockbuster than any horror movie from the previous 100 years, could anything ever shock us ever again? And so came the slow undead triumph over Western culture – no wonder it’s been mirrored by a proliferation in zombie/vampire movies. A slow slip form the life world which the emerging broadband Internet could help (zombie)-germinate and then reproduce. All our civilisation seems equipped for now is reflections of its former self.
All of this confirms in me that it is the dominant belief system and the structures that form around it that is the corpse at the reigns; our feelings of being dead partly caused due it being able to seemingly annihilate the possibility of an alternative to its own dominance from the psyche-sphere whilst it was in the process of dying itself. Yet, this sensation of undead-ness mainly comes by us clinging more rigidly to the dead belief system the more things like climate change and the joint threat of permanent-austerity and creeping surveillance threaten to take away the few things we were fooled into thinking were givens, as long as we compromised to live under this system. When you see no way out of worsening situation your survival instincts are to live in a state of further delusion, only now and again being hit by the disconcerting sensation that “we are already dead” (1984). The quote from 1984 I really want to use here (but cannot find anywhere, without the book) is when the protagonist Winston Smith realises that he will never be able to kill himself, to cut short his existence he already knows to be doomed, and stresses how instinct forces his body to stay alive, taking one breath after another for as long as it can.
I admittedly usually cut things short here, as if leaving the blanks to fill in. Partly because this blog has been set up largely with the hasty desire for my visual work to be seen and appreciated/exposed (‘instinct forcing the body to try to stay alive as long as possible”), and this has almost already confirmed that I will only amount to a rookie writing level, with a poor knowledge of writers to use citations from. But I also cut things short because I don’t know what to write from here. I don’t know what to suggest from this point, but still feel I should to shirk off the “negative person” tags. Because I don’t see my self as a negative person, I see myself as I critical person, and Now needs endless criticism. But I just don’t have any answers, not anymore, those naive early adulthood asks of “why not” were easily winded, and need to be replaced. I need a second wind.
“…today, I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available”. A new self that needs to contain less and less of an inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance — as we all become “pancake people” — spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button. Will this produce a new kind of enlightenment or “super-consciousness”? Sometimes I am seduced by those proclaiming so — and sometimes I shrink back in horror at a world that seems to have lost the thick and multi-textured density of deeply evolved personality.” 1 – Richard Foreman
Over the past ten years, the speed of information and the amount of it flowing around, and in and out of us has increased dramatically, and it shows no sign of slowing down. In agreement with Richard Foreman, sometimes I am excited by this new reality, but just as often it gives me a sense of cold “horror”. The dominant belief in our culture is that the more we find out, the more of an understanding we have of our things that matter to make a safer, democratic world. But is this happening with the current way we receive information, where our points of contact with the big issues around the world become mixed up with the points of contact with friends, employers, titillating-trivia and everything else imaginable, until what matters and what doesn’t can often seem undistinguishable in what can feel like living under a waterfall of information?
Rebuilding The Flattened, deals specifically with Twitter. It reels in everything I have ‘Tweeted’ as John Ledger since I joined in March 2012. The aim is to re-imburst them with substance, by bringing all the sentences together and placing them in a space where text isn’t constantly in flux; to reinvigorate them with memory that has a continuity to it; and if it merely reads a pocket-sized riot of random sentences strung-together to other people, it certainly tells a story to me, reminding me of things I was feeling, and things that were concerning me, that would have otherwise remained forgotten in a cyberspace graveyard.
For me, the prospect of a society of ‘pancake people’ poses an overtly political dilemma: how can we make sense of things, and get keep hold of an understanding of what is the root cause of the problems in the world when, as Franco (Bifo) Berardi says “Subjected to the infinite acceleration of the info-stimuli, the mind reacts with either panic of desensitisation”? 2. Can we really act collectively to counter anti-democratic forces, extreme economic injustices, and climate change whilst we are subjected to this? The problem here is that disconnecting ourselves from cyberspace is neither the solution nor achievable for for most people.
Thus, there is certainly a political motivation behind making this book. A ‘cognitive mapping’3 (Fredric Jameson) of an info-drenched landscape that pulls us all into points of panic and delirium, with the intention of constructing a larger picture of these past years. In many ways this desire is what also motivates my large scale drawings, a way of working which also more or less spans social media age also. A consistent hope that artistic endeavours contribute to helping us transcend the huge deadlocks civilisation has come up against in the 21st century.
I remember when Facebook was first mentioned to me. I was in my last year of my art degree, using Myspace; either to promote one of my art projects, the end of degree exhibition, or to apologise for some drunken rant or something at someone the evening before (one of the three anyway). Anyway it was early 2007. My first impressions of it then was that it was a more sophisticated alternative to Myspace, for ‘adult’s. Less ‘pouting’ and lists of favourite bands, and more “so, what are you doing with your life now?….oh me? I’m married now!…” blah blah blah, all that keeping up appearances shit of aspirational adulthood.
Inspite of the depression I suffered from in my early 20’s, my understanding of what was truly going wrong in the world was largely lacking the vocabulary to express the link between the physical and the psychological; it was much more “stop climate change” than “what’s preventing us from stopping climate change?”. This was beginning to appear in my artwork, yes, but overall my frustration over social networking was probably just mere annoyance with it, and the deleting of my Myspace accounts was then only understood by myself as due to depression, not that the depression may be partially triggered by commonly occurring anxieties from using the media form that I was attempting to cut my life from. To be truthful, inspite of my depression, at 23 I still had a lot of ‘young man’s’ hopes and excitements; the particles that combine to make my current life were yet to set and were free-floating, and far more easily pushed to one side when I need ‘a laugh’ (which is noticeable in my large drawings from this time; the subject matter then to now is the same, but it was more chaotic and free-flowing back then – arguably more joyous due to this).
Since then Facebook has gone from being a rival to Myspace to being something so large (over a billion users, more than a seventh of the entire world) that is has surely defined an all new era in our collective story upon the capitalist horrorshow-ride (it could also be called the Network-era, Internet 2.0 era, Broadband era). Myspace has increasingly come to look like some cyberspace graveyard; an eerie (non)place of friends’ profiles, that are like abandoned ships, found again, floating in an ice cold cyberspace, as if it was still 2007/2008. At the same time as this, our collective anxieties, whilst made to look isolated in dominant discourse, have become increasingly more audible as we passed through a seismic financial crash, to find ourselves in the grips of an even more bloody-thirsty capitalism, leaving an expanding carnage of wars and climatic devastation. A new reality; whilst most of the time we’re unaware that it is a new reality. But if we step outside of the world ‘enframed’ by cyberspace social interaction for a minute, even just to catch our breath (like I am currently doing, by ‘politely’ asking their admin team for my profile to be deleted, as if I was a paying customer or something), how is Facebook (especially) affecting our lives? And should we ask the questions: why is it here? Why has it become so big? Is it just ‘progress’, or can progress look different? And, would we prefer a world without it?
Where do you begin when talking about its conception? Prior to the era of social networking, for 70 years, almost an entire century in the US, we have been fed all day everyday with publicity. Publicity, that became the most dominant and omnipresent form of information during this time-period, telling us what we should like, how we should look, act, and what things we should talk about. Utilising genuine human needs, and using them in a way that benefits the publicity-maker, and benefits a system dependent on publicity by keeping the mass of people’s live orientated around trivia. Trivia that is only relevant to the day in hand, or in order to generate small-talk/to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ etc. For well over half a century we have been clay in the hands of the interests that endorse the propagation of publicity. These interests being of ruling sections of western ‘democracies’, as a way of preventing democracy becoming what the word really means – not just the choice between different leaders every 4/5 years, as we experience it now.
The reason social networking can function now is because after half a century of the psychological assault, we are self-assembled publicity. Facebook is an inversion of 20th century publicity. Publicity has been at least somewhat successful during the past 70 or so years in building us into walking publicity, of trivia, obediently learning to enjoy being what a landscape drenched in publicity made us become. We now go onto social networking sites, libidinously-compelled to advertise ourselves. Everyone anxiously-driven to compete, once their eyes set on the waterfall of enforced self-entrepreneurship that is the newsfeed. Yet, whilst we compete against one another, all 1 billion active users, we are all speaking the same language, of publicity, of capitalism. Indeed there is no other language that can be used on Facebook, whatever you post it translates as publicity. When on Facebook the ability to imagine some other sort of human experience is as difficult as can be.
This is possibly the reason why posts critiquing capitalist system, and its matrix of injustices (from climate change to the bedroom tax) are hard-pressed to be of any use but to keep protest virtual and ineffectual. And this doesn’t apply to cyberspace technology across the board, but I am certainly more inclined to argue now that this applies to social networking in nearly all cases. Social networking is a form of communication born from ‘DNA’ taken from the ideological laboratory of publicity, which has the purpose of oiling the wheels of a capitalist world. At this specific moment I am very pessimistic about Facebook becoming a platform for a different mode of communication.
All this doesn’t mean that I think people who use Facebook are just walking advertisements for their atomised lives full stop, just that this is all Facebook seems to allow them to be. But not only does it prevent you from being anything else, it forces you, via feelings of status anxiety, inferiority, of being less than others, to promote what you have been doing/liking/feeling etc. This is incredibly psychologically distressing to many, especially those who feel dependent on Facebook for most social interaction due to having difficulties finding it anywhere else, because everyone else is staring at their screens. I have only been free of Facebook (this time around) for a week, and I’m hoping nothing drags me back on there, having to keep on reminding myself about an awful realisation I had a couple of months back that my quality of life has massively deteriorated since the rise of social networking influence in it, and that I do not believe it to be a coincidence.
So, if the first major factor in this worldwide socio-psychological experiment that allows for Facebook’s dominance is that the near-century assault from publicity has saturated everything so efficiently, then this is a matter of substance; what to things are now made out of. But there has to be another factor at play here that then makes us feel compelled by some invisible force to be adverts for ourselves which then causes so much psychological distress. To get to the roots of this I think we have to look at the direction society was directed towards in 2 of the most culturally and economically influential countries in the world (thus spreading to everywhere else soon after). The late 1970’s/early 1980’s saw ideas under the umbrella of Thatcherism take hold in the UK, and the same thing happen under the umbrella of Reaganism in the US.
If you imagine any given society as a test tube, imagine then Thatcherism/Reaganism as a massive syringe injecting into it market individualism. What could market individualism be described as? It has a double meaning: that business can, and should be allowed to do what it pleases, that everything should be run as a business, from the railways down to toilet facilities, with a belief that market freedom is best way to run things. But, more importantly regarding this post, the enforcement of individualism onto every human being in that society, but a certain type of individualism: that he/she must be an active player within a market-driven system. During the 1980’s social networking, early mobile phones and the like, were the preserve of a small professional class nicknamed the ‘yuppies’, by the 2000’s this was no longer a so-called ‘lifestyle choice, and had trickled down onto all of us until it was “a minimum requirement for mere survival”, as it was always intended to be. This logical outcome leaves a person finding all their character ‘assets’ overcome by a compulsion to compete, to be constantly advertising themselves.
So, let’s return to the test tube comparison. Imagine that this market individualism, injected into society, took time to fully saturate the test tube. I would argue that it became fully saturated at the time when Facebook became fully ‘viral’, in both meanings of the world viral; (the contemporary usage of the word) it’s all over the Internet, and (the main meaning) that it may as well be circulating through our blood stream like a real virus. Without even beginning to question who gets the chance to go to these Havard school ‘genius’ laboratories in the first place, the fact is that they were/are very fucking clever, as venture capitalists; social networking platforms weren’t just a wild stab in the dark at creating something people might like to use, they are platforms that have been ‘plugged’ right into this ideological DNA’s mains supply, saturated by market individualism. Just at the right time when the technology allowed for social media to be used by (almost) everyone, but whilst the Internet was still a relatively new thing to us, and our guard was down.
The cultural saturation with the logic of self-advertisement has ambushed our thoughts; as Mark Fisher says in his book Capitalist Realism, “when we sleep we dream of capital”. The usage of ourselves as ‘human capital’, even though we’re usually totally unaware of being so, has some, if not most investment in our Facebook posts, whilst as a platform, Facebook translates all language into publicity anyway. Whilst the solution to the financial crash was ‘capitalist realist’, by giving the world an even harsher and more blood-thirsty model of the system that had supposedly just lost all its credibility by failing so fantastically, this has seemingly intensified our haste to self-promote, and thus the rise and rise in social networkers.
The misconception that “it’s just progress”, an inevitability that can’t be halted, and that to criticise it would to be “flogging a dead horse” would tell anybody (from the most revered thinkers throughout history, to the rest of us) who has ever tried to understand the logic from which industrial capitalism sprung that they too are flogging a dead horse. Indeed, maybe we all have been flogging a dead horse, but what choice do we have now when it is clear that this dominant ideology is dragging the world towards civilisational and ecological destruction? If we don’t challenge the dominant cultural logic, then we must resign ourselves to letting any children we produce grow up into a world even less worth living in than the one we currently inhabit.
As things stand I can only see our collective dependency on Facebook increasing. And I am more than certain that out ‘social networking’ dependency is getting more vicious as capitalism also becomes more viscous (both in an rapacious desire to make our character qualities ‘good publicity’, and in the way that people are increasingly turning on each other via social media), and for this reason it will continue to reduce the quality of the lives of many users. The problem here then is its addictiveness; because it has the ability to absorb the entire libidinal fuel reserve of publicity created over the past 70/90 years, it more or less grabs your finger towards ‘the big F’ on an interface (there’s been many times when I have found myself staring at a Facebook screen with literally no memory of opening it up).
I don’t know how to convince people that the quality of one’s life (and, thus, potentially the quality of everything) will decrease the longer they depend on it, but I am sure that attempting to quit isn’t regressive/Luddite in nature (even when you relapse and reactivate the dormant account again). I don’t think cyberspace technology has to be solely used to this effect, it is the platforms that have grown from the dominant idealogical DNA I am referring to. Whether a mass exodus will occur, it certainly won’t as things stand, maybe if the legitimacy of the ruling ideas is damaged beyond credibility during the next decade or so, but nobody can know if that will happen. Yet, I am convinced now that quitting these platforms is the right thing to do if we want to aim for a more bearable future. So, yes, “quit Facebook!”
On one of my days off from work I was going to take my camera out with me, but I lost the heart. It felt as if I would just be adding to the mess which consumer capitalism has created. “Well” I thought “maybe I can just keep them for my own use and not feel compelled to paste them on to the net?” However, I had just had the privilege of viewing the new updated Google maps.
“Technological advances in a consumer society render everything pointless!!” – I very much believe this now, thanks to the Google Empire.
I’m no technophobe; I believe in technology for the benefit of humanity. However, something isn’t quite right; the Utopian visions its advancements seem to suggest are always far from being realised. And instead of making life more fantastic and meaningful, it seems to be making it appear more and more pointless – a feeling which says “been there, done that; nothing great happened; what’s the point of doing it again?” Yet we have to do it again; we are a generation transfixed with the web. We have become glued to technological advances which serve no benefits to us or the advancement of our species, and there is a straight-forward reason for this: the triumph of commercialisation.
Today whilst searching the web, I discovered that something had happened that I had been expecting to happen for a long time: Google had taken over the world!!! OK, well that’s not entirely the truth, but Google Maps does now contain a comprehensive street view of almost every street in the UK. At some point (in the summer of 2009 – certain advertising banners on the street confirm this) Google’s high tech ‘camera-car’ has whizzed around every street sapping every house and every person who happened to be on the street at that moment.
If you were unfortunate enough to be one of these people, Google now has the Commercial rights to let the entire world see your body – it has been kind enough to blur your faces out, as if you were an innocent bystander in Google’s war on uncharted land. These bystanders look towards the camera with helpless bemusement, as if looking up at some medieval conqueror parading victoriously through their streets.
My first reaction to realising that the world-wide-web has got virtual access to my street, was to do something which I usually try to restrain myself from doing; I posted a feed onto my Facebook community wall, highlighting my exasperation to, what felt like, an infringement of some age old right, which had been lost under layers of insane commercial growth. Of course this was counter productive; Facebook (and the other SNS’s) already have the majority of the UK constantly updating their feeds, letting a small-town-sized virtual community know when they are eating, laughing, shitting or crying; what difference would it make if the world could see the windows of the rooms in which they do this?
After an hour or so of no ‘comments’ or ‘likes’ I decided it would be best to delete the feed, after all, I knew that most of my Facebook ‘friends’ would have glanced briefly at the feed and thought this: “John’s a right technophobe; he’s read 1984 far too many times”
Maybe I am little too ‘Over-Orwellian’ with my feelings about what’s happening. The thing is though; we wouldn’t even need some all-seeing power watching over our every move and facial expression; in the 21st century we’re quite happily showing our entire lives to the world anyway – we seem want the world to know everything about us, whether it wants to or not. Even the disconcerted cannot escape the tidal shift towards this way of living; they cannot live without the needs that Internet communication has created.
This use of technological advances is not the be-all and end-all of what it can offer us a species; this usage is intrinsic to a consumer society; free market capitalism can have no other use for technology, but profit-making. There is a difference between a technophobe and somebody who is severely disconcerted with the speed that technology is advancing to solely cater for the needs of a dictatorship of commercialism.
The predatory mechanisms of Consumerism have become ever-more powerful on the internet. Facebook and the other SNSs may not directly sell a certain product but they most certainly function by playing on the individual’s social insecurities and desires, and create an insatiable social void, by using the exact same formulas that can be seen being used by Consumerism to sell products. It may even be apparent that, just like there is a higher intensity of Consumerism in less equal nations, social networking site usage may also be higher as a percentage in more unequal and more hierarchical nations. The UK is one of Europe’s most unequal nations, and has a much higher number of Facebook users (roughly 23 million out of a 60 million total) than other European nations with higher and similar populations but with a more equal distribution of wealth such as Germany (roughly 7 million out of an 80 million total) or France (roughly 15 million out of 65 million total). It is a fact that there is more social anxiety in less equal nations so, obviously, more people will be on social networking sites, feeling compelled to maintain or improve their social status. (On this note, I would recommend that everybody read ‘The Spirit level’ why more equal societies do better, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson; a book which goes very far in explaining the social consequences caused by inequality).
In the age when to be seen in the looking-glass, to be a celebrity, is an inescapable desire, we are all trying to prove our talents and creations. However, this now endemic desire has been rendered impotent by the culture that spurred them on; the omni-presence of cultural, visual, audio artefacts on the web has brought culture to the brink of valueless, and all that we can do is add to that decreasing. What can a photographer bring to a world which has been covered head-to-toe by the hi-tech camera abilities of Google street view? What can a songwriter bring to a world which consists of possibly over 1 million Myspace music artists also screaming to be heard? No doubt this rant will end up on my blog page; me, just another of millions of ‘me’s’ – blogging away – trying to be noticed as having something of worth to contribute; ignoring our doubts that inform us that we are merely just adding to one great mess.
This accessible but futile ‘celebrity fuelled’ dream is working side by side with the advancements of commercial interest on the internet to the ends of making everything, once of value, worth nothing. However, this omnipresence is an ever growing pacification of the masses. Everything is instantly accessible, instantly there to consume; photo’s of everywhere, every song ever, every possible porn fantasy. If we aren’t strong enough to pull away we may already be plummeting ourselves into the completely dilapidated environment described in Brave New World.
The suggestion of an increasingly powerful virtual dominance controlling the mass, sometimes seems too stronger a suggestion to merely dismiss as an irrational fear. And the recent discovery of Google’s surveying of the land, was what recently got me feeling troubled that there is something seriously wrong with the uses of technological advances in our current society. I’m no conspiracy theorist, yet I just cannot see what commercial benefits Google could receive from photographically documenting back-alleys, and cul-de-sacs in small villages. One cannot help but wonder whether Google is being funded to be able undertake such an extensive survey of the nation’s roads. One could argue that the nations with the most extensive Google street-views on the net are the ones with the most national security paranoia, over issues such as terrorism, activism and immigration; The USA, The UK, Spain, France and the Netherlands are some of the few nations which have been extensively surveyed by Google. There is a decreasing level of trust in Capitalist societies, from person to person and from the state to citizen. This is only an unfounded suggestion, yet Google’s extensive surveying seems a little ‘over the top’ for the purpose of allocating advertising space.
Perhaps it isn’t impossible to imagine that Google street view will become a useful tool for the state once the poverty line lifts above most of the population, as climate change/peak oil make resources and jobs much more scarce – these environmental consequences are destined to happen if we carry on ‘business as usual, that’s for sure. The poor will need to be monitored ever more and possibly crushed ever more as their needs become greater. This may sound more like a terrific sci-fi dystopia, but are we not close to this situation already, without the consequences of climate change?
It doesn’t require much imagination to see that the current homogenising forces of consumerism could quite easily be utilised to control the masses in a much more direct and brutal manner; the gradual increasing of surveillance in society seems to be sneakily expanding, almost in-time to suppress the social unrest which would be caused by unchallenged climate change and peak oil. Google street view, presently a consumer accessory could be easily utilised for state surveillance; signing up to social-networking-sites could become compulsory; all those who are already signed up wouldn’t be able to leave. And finally, let’s not forget the structures of the out-of-town shopping complexes; these places would make ideal holding pens/prisons; indeed, my nearest shopping complex ‘Meadowhall’ was actually built with the original intention of it being a prison! You may say I have got a very vivid imagination; I say that I am merely monitoring the tracks of the inevitable.
Without the conspiracy, one thing still remains apparent as I look at the bemused passers-by caught without consent by the camera: the rights of enterprise seem to overrule all other rights; we can’t touch Google, just like we cannot touch the billboards which bombard our minds, however it is allowed to drive down our streets, and look in our windows, all for the apparent benefits to enterprise. Nobody and nowhere seem to be exempt from these rights of passage. More worryingly, few seem concerned, as they passively tell the world-wide-web about there private lives, whilst being satiated by omni-present consumerism to an extent to which the need for democracy doesn’t seem that great.
Re-joining social-networking sites
Last week I had a moment of weakness from my values and principles, and I briefly re-joined the social networking site ‘Facebook’. I believe the weakness was born out of a realization that I was about to start full time work again, after having 2 months off (exhibition swap around). In these months I missed so many opportunities to socialize and meet people, and I had the glum feeling that I had missed my chances, now work was about to take up my time, I was waving goodbye to yet another year from the solitary confinements of gallery 4. I wanted a quick fix to ease the feeling of a block period of solitude.
This need brushed my logic aside, that beliefs that social networking sites are in fact a major cause of 21st century solitude, among 18-30’s, and never a cure to it, and I re-joined in order to have some social interaction, as at that moment I felt that even digital socialising was better than no socialising.
To my surprise, and especially to my concerns, as soon as I entered my old password into the box, my old profile, that I thought I’d erased from history in September 2008, re-opened on the monitor screen, untouched, unchanged, as if nothing had ever happened. When I left Facebook, it was as if I had never existed, now I’d re-joined it was like I had never left, as if I had been enjoying the ‘facebook party’ all though the past 9 months!. The past was being altered around me. For an instant Facebook seemed to posses the power to alter my past and present, It wielded a power frighteningly similar to that of O’Brien in Orwell’s 1984. In Cyber space we live by clocks and dates, but there is no past present or future, everything is now, or it is never.
I had a quick check of my mates’ profiles, I had to, it was so tempting. Then suddenly I found me again. I realised how much I didn’t want to be part of this place. So, as fast as my fingers could run, I scrolled across the options until I found ‘de-activate account’.
To my surprise and ever more concern, I found that when I was on my facebook ‘Bonn Voyage’ screen, there was pictures of many of those cyber friends I’d made back into 2008, their profile photo’s had changed. They now featured images of myself – photos they had which featured me in their digital album collection – above messages saying “we’ll miss you john!”.
For a brief moment I was caught, I forgot to question how they could have possibly known I was back for all of those 3 minutes, and facebook had hold of the strings of my heart, and got me thinking “these people remember me!, I’m remembered!!”.
Thankfully I ‘woke up’ in time from my lapse into the trap. This site was using ’emotional persuasion’ to try and prevent me from leaving its captive audience of members. This time, thankfully, It didn’t work (If you think I am making this up, go and try to quit, and I promise this screen will come up before you).
Emotional persuasion, is the name of the game with social networking sites, you can be a member and not play that game, but I am a man with both an habitual and socially discontent personality, and emotions can talk louder that logic when one is glum. so quiting was my best option.
My most recent piece of work ‘the alpha Forest’ was largely inspired by my experiences of both MySpace and Facebook. Places in which people are screaming “me, me me, look at me I’m special!!!”. 200 million people all using one site with a limited option of page layouts, all believing in their true individuality.
“Today, the 17th july at 9pm, John Ledger walked back to Facebook for good. He knew it, he finally loved facebook”
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