Archive for July, 2012

Let’s Chat: IM is so last decade

July 18, 2012

Let’s talk about Social Media. Let’s talk about online personalities. Let’s talk about Facebook and smartphones and always online. According to my sources, these things have become somewhat popular of late.

Discussing modern life connectivity invariably brings up two responses. The first:

1. OMG it’s GR8, I can tell the world what I had for breakfast and where I am RIGHT NOW and I can keep in touch with my friends ALL THE TIME, I ❤ how I can share my cool thoughts the moment they come into my head through twitter

and then there’s the mourning and woe and much gnashing of teeth:

2. Oh woe! This generation of kids babysat by glowing white rectangles can’t tear themselves away from their screens long enough to enjoy what’s around them, to smell the roses and appreciate the world. They demand satisfaction and entertainment and instant gratification that they miss the value of introspection and reflection and creative boredom. I pity them for they are DOOMED to a lifetime of cretinous consumption and superficial socialising.

The first is true but pretty much completely misses the potential of being Connected, while the second is mistaken and missing out. Now, I’m not so intelligent as to have fully-formed original ideas spouting out of my head, so I will point in the direction of a long article which, by-and-large, had me nodding along with assent.

If you haven’t the will to read the whole thing, I’ll summarise it as follows: The obsession with being offline, and celebrating being able to disconnect, be it by abstaining from Facebook, putting away a phone,  feeling secretly superior at keeping away from email, or proudly declaring distraction-free digital sabbaths for introspection are a fetishization of being offline. Rejecting the attention span-destroying and creativity-sapping convenience of modern connectivity for the retro and the vintage steams from Digital Dualism: the belief that the online and offline are distinct and mutually exclusive. That one can be one, or the other, but not both.

But, fact is, we don’t have digital dual personas, we have online extensions. Photos posted on Facebook were taken at a party where you actually danced with someone, and that lunch date you just had was at a restaurant recommended by a friend online and organised through the internet. When you turned your phone off and went sightseeing on holiday, you were thinking of  sharing your great experience on your blog.  As the author puts it:

“But this idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how we think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline. That is, we live in an augmented reality that exists at the intersection of materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the off and the online. It is wrong to say “IRL” to mean offline: Facebook is real life.”

Permit an illustration through a medium of which I’m particularly fond: games. This article was what prompted me to go down this rabbit hole, and it is as dauntingly long as the previous one, and very likely even less penetrable or interesting. In fact, if you ask me I’d say I don’t get half of it either (and I’d ashamedly surrender some geek cred), but the bit that is relevant, as illustrated through a pair of games a decade apart:

“In truth, ‘the internet’ doesn’t exist anymore. There is rarely any point speaking of it as if it was separate from the rest of the world – which is a cyberspace too. Uplink’s fantasy of separation (or separatism?) is now barely coherent. But then, it was always based on a Hollywood vision of the electronic frontier. In their use of space and distance, and the aesthetic choices that surround them, Watch Dogs and Uplink seem to bookend an ontological shift in how we think about the internet, a move from fantastic digital dualism to rhizomatic complexity. Now the only question is whether Ubi’s game can capture this moment as brilliantly as Uplink captured mine.”

Personally I’ve never been as deeply enmeshed into the online world as some people; I don’t tweet, I can stay away from Facebook without withdrawal symptoms, I don’t upload photos of everything I eat or everyone I meet. But I still consider myself a digital native. I like undistracted time to work or think, not offline time for simply being offline.If I have to disconnect so that I’m not interrupted by invites to Farmville, so be it, but I’ll still meet you as readily online as offline.

But, for all the folk who haven’t yet developed an intuitive understanding of how there can be no online/offline divide, it’s time to get with the times where online and offline selves are the same. Web 1.0 Email and IM, or Web 2.0 social media, or whatever comes next, we connect with our fellow fleshbags in both meatspace and online, often simultaneously. So, take a leaf out of the book from the characters in Christine Love’s (absolutely fantastic must read/play) visual novel don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story and curate your online personality with a bit more care, because it’s only going to become more important, and more real.
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Somethin’s a brewin’ tonight

July 17, 2012

I, evidently, haven’t been updating much here. Call it writer’s block, or simply being uninspired (I’d love to blame an uninspiring, nay, downright dismaying, work environment, but that would be an Intolerable Self-Justifying Excuse), but that doesn’t matter anymore because I am going to prepare potent brews of creative juices and biting wit by forcing myself to write, regardless of how utterly dispirited I may be.