Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mobile Device/Internet as Thematic

(Wow, that last version was very poorly edited. Here I hope I've cleaned up some of the mistakes.)

In the back of my consciousness the question has persisted for some time as to why cultural objects that try to thematize the internet, computing, or mobile device use seem so utterly banal? Books like Jeannette Winterson's The PowerBook, or even any of the sci-fi that tries to use cyberspace as a setting for action, e.g Neuromancer inspire a kind of detached interest if not an altogether indifference. To some degree Neuromancer suffers from what most sci-fi novels attempt, which is over-description of the accoutrements of the future, revealing a limited sense of the movement of history and the present in order to conceive of the future, or at least a kind of inertia within the social entrenchments of its moments (not to mention the vacuous overdescription of what each character is wearing and how they have their "hair-did" generally in the cyber-punk subgenre). So for example the fact that we have wireless, touchscreen devices, equipped with voice-recognition capacities and yet not at the same time as hover crafts (as per Back to the Future II's speculative future) shows the limitations, at least in terms of product development, that is necessarily part of any vision of the future. Clearly this dated quality carries over into other attempts to specify the context of cyberspace present and future, insofar as the rate of innovation seems to unevenly correspond to the social imaginary.

But I also wonder to what extent so much of this cultural production that seeks to thematize the internet and wireless technologies tend to be so uninteresting to me is that they overinvest in the ideologies of the internet itself as a space of liberated, anonymous interaction and self-creation. A place and non-place at the same time, a unique context of total and egalitarian interaction, sort of like market ideology. Correspondences with market ideologies, the ideology of internet technologies never seems to match the "reality" of internet and wireless device use, which as research has shown just increases our contact with the 8 people we know already, and is not drawing us closer to Bangladesh or Bolivia. Or the kind of atomized, and perhaps alienated, experience of computer use in general that is also a decisive part of internet use and spectatorship. In other words, every text is not like an orgasm (as per Lil Kim below, even though I love her otherwise).

In order to facilitate a discussion of these questions I've included several music videos that try to thematize the internet as a vehicle for sexual contact or romance. Check them out:

Imagining fame as an internet function.


Eric Clarke said...

There may be affinities between what people say about the internet and what people say about markets, but I would be interested to know if you think there actually are such affinities. I tend to think not so much.

SkidMarquez said...

Yeah, I think the analogy is meant to be instructive more than really describing any affinities per se. Although I kind of think that the neo-liberal rhetoric of self-care and entrepeneurialism is at the heart of a cyberspace subjectivity. At any rate this post was mostly a kind of thinking out loud, like most.

Mostly I just think objects organized around these themes in are boring and nauseating and I'm wondering why.