A terribly long thing

The People to Come Have Accounts

Imagine the life of a child born in 2004 to a twenty-year-old user of the then freshly launched FaceBook, who met the other parent of the child via the same social network. The entire pregnancy and birth recorded in photo and written description. The moment when the child turns ten and opens their own account on the social network ostensibly responsible for his or her existence. That moment in 2014 when FaceBook passes the ten-year mark. The child will look at their parent’s entire social archive preserved there on the site for them to research. The child has an access to the parent that in previous generations has been significantly less exact. In pre social network life the child may have accessed their parents younger days through a diary or the back and forth letters or through oral history. But now the child possess a document of pictures and movie choices and blogs with comments, that lead to other entries modified to respond to comments left by loved ones and strangers. An extensive and overwhelming glut of information in the minutia. Every child’s parent at this point has a public following. Every child has a famous parent. What will fame at that point mean or even look like.

Anonymous will no longer exist for this child whose entire life has been broadcast and recorded. We are faced with a population whose daily experience is captured and transmitted from moment to moment. A pile of information unlike anything the libraries of Alexandria could have contained. The child becomes anthropologist to his or her own life. Privacy at this point will take on a new form. One the world is still grappling with daily. The self established archive will build transversals on a massive world level, connecting the reality the child perceives back through time and space to imagined and manufactured fictional narratives. Gifting to the child access to an identity produced for them by the technological advances. This child will perceive the world through the eyes of a new level of human evolution. The next phase is upon us, and the mysteries cherished by the past of individual privacy and self made identity are crumbling. The next great era of society is at a crossroads and the children in charge of its development are a people yet to be defined. A group without a clear motive. The decision will be made by these people as to weather the previous system of marketing driven life will remain meaningful enough to continue. I believe they will begin a pursuit of ideas and living which exceeds the simple consumer culture they are now being born into.

The revolution will be broadcast, then archived, and then available for rating on your Smartphone by the end of the workday.

There are over six billion people on the planet, souls as it were. One in twelve have a FaceBook account exceeding five hundred million individual accounts, all connected and networked through a designation of friendship. Friend is the Sign attached to the individuals a user interacts with on the site. This is how the people participating in the machine of FaceBook identify themselves. There is no other sign to represent the relationship between users. Friend is how they reference their fellow co inhabitants of the site, not community members, not peers, not associates, but as friends, even family members are indentified by the sign “friend”. This is the industry’s symbol chosen to be the connecting term.

Facebook places the limit of friends any one individual user may keep in their network at anyone time at five thousand. Distinctly drawing lines around the organizations its users may choose to build and create. This arbitrarily number lands above historical markers, but not outside the experience of a global user who builds quick relationships with users around the world on a daily basis. The idea of true friendship has shifted. Because FaceBook has no tier system to distinguish the relationships between users, no rating systems for how strong a friendship is on any given day. It requires every friend to be listed at the same closeness to the user. Friend as a sign loses its previous strength and meaning. The contacts one has on Facebook are exactly like the relationships people have always formed. Meeting a new person at a party and knowing their name but little else of their biography. But in the social network world the user may research the new contact to the tiniest detail. Searching back through there online lives to find other connections and parallels to their own lives. When the user leaves the party with the new contact’s name they then begin a much more permanent connection. They add the new contact to a permanent list of “friends” a permanent link easily established. This new level of interaction causes a user to build a network of contacts that they can instantly research and investigate, or follow and observe. The contacts feel more meaningful at this point because a stranger can become familiar so much more quickly and the walls of distance come crashing down. We have always been this connected in our communities, but now having a textual database providing visual codes for us to use to categorize and discern commonalities raises the feeling beyond previous norms. This feeling of knowing someone so quickly has lead to new value charts. The FaceBook user no longer needs a few close friends to rely on and instead acquires a vast network of perceived contacts to count as friends.

The Uniform

The vast majority of social networks, except MySpace, function on the same principle of formulaic profile. MySpace is the exception because of their willingness to allow users to upload html code, which modifies a users homepage. This has lead to countless breakdowns in their system and a loss of users due to a perceived unreliable nature of the site. The competition has adopted a home page that is a uniform. No modifications of the code on the basic homepage is allowed. Keeping everyone in the specific architecture of the official company programmers. The homepage resembling an early FBI profile page. Portrait of user in top left corner, name of user, alias’, statistics to the right of this, then a series of personal information about habits and preferences. Then somewhere on the sheet, information about current activities and where abouts. And lastly the known associates. A list of everyone the user has been known to interact with. The difference from the FBI sheet is, of course, that all the information on the user’s profile page has been provided by the user willingly. Privacy at this point is a myth. Any information uploaded is available to the institution at best and the world at large at worst.

The interactivity of the page is reduced to text editing and photo publishing. No other data can be submitted. The basic interface is between a users eyes and the mouse or track pad. The user is simply holding very still with their body and reading and viewing. Like 500 million research assistants spending hours just scanning over visual information occasionally making notes or comments. No physical interaction other than the fingers and rapid eye movement. What memories of experience can be constructed from static bodies? Can a user chart in their mind experiential life when they never physically interacted. More than just metaphysical knowledge acquisition that humans have been using for years with the printed text and film, this form of existence is entirely metaphysical. This mind at work but with no markers to hold onto. No theater seat, and no book to dog-ear or place on the shelf at completion. The exchange the social network users are participating in is more a kin to a cocktail party they hear about but never attended.

Identity Please

If the user goes by anything more than the American standard three names they are forced back into a predetermined average. In non-U.S. markets the format is inline with the individual culture, for instance the family names in many Asian markets reversed in order of appearance. But the option does not exist in the American market. This obviously presumes the American standard is universal and with out variation. The user may choose to have a screen identity, a handle, but in the background the user is expected to fill in accurate contact information stating an established real world identity. Jaques Steinberg writes about the FaceBook policy in his article for the New York Times

A Facebook spokesman, Simon Axten, said that the social network “prohibits the use of fake names and false identities.”

On Facebook the user is warned that they may only switch their screen identity once. Which seems odd, and arbitrary, what damage would be done with constant switching, it’s simply another information field, like the text box used for favorite movie. A text box which can go through infinite revision. Why would the line be drawn at the users name? This falls back into the cataloging that makes the site and sites like it so powerful an identity tool. The function of the system is to allow users to find each other easily and connect to one another through shared photographs and text posts. If the user is allowed to switch their screen identities too often their networks would breakdown and become unsearchable. This flaw was revealed on MySpace when it enjoyed market dominance, the fall arrived when networks became impossible to keep track of, the profile picture and screen names switching daily. This would be the equivalent of someone’s address book shifting the alphabet every morning, forcing a constant realignment of groups.

In the analog world we must stick day to day with the identities we have built both legally and personally over years. We may perform a name change via extensive paperwork with the government. But our nicknames can travel with us from group to group. School nicknames may be different from the family nickname and so on. Those remain flexible like the screen names and various account names we choose online.
In this digital age we are able to code our identities in so many more complex ways. No longer does the name we use on a social media site bare any specific association to the user, and if we too swiftly move from one identity to the next than we lose the ability to connect to each other. Much like we would be hampered in the analog world if we were to show up to work everyday calling ourselves by a new name. This however is not stopped by the restrictions of switching screen names as many people maintain multiple accounts on single sites. As if you could work at the same company but in two different departments under two different identities. The problem is multiplied by the infinite number of sites you must build an account to access. For instance, most sites now require a user account to be established with a valid email account to allow full access to the services of the site. RottenTomatoes for movies, Yelp for food, The New York Times Online for news and so on. We are forced to build new profiles and identities for each of these sites. The variations of passwords are exhausting. There is not one single login like in analog life as you use your Drivers license to validate your legitimacy to rent a car, or a hotel room, or purchase a money order? The Internet currently functions like a 1950s crime novel, in which the protagonist can hide in hotels by simply registering under a false name. But these personas have less connection and almost no romance attached to it. Giles Deleuze discusses this struggle between idea of identification and the nature of the thing being indentified in his book The Logic of Sense.

Is it necessary, then to invoke identity and contradiction? Would two events be incompatible because they were contradictory? Is this not a case, though, of applying rules to events, which apply only to concepts, predicates and classes? (195)
The contradiction of the online web account is an enlarged sense of authenticity of identity as it is produced by the individual user, but is contradicted by the nature of the identities creation. The identity has little connection to the reality of the user, the online persona simply a sign to refer to the user based almost totally in text and still image representation. Not an accurate or complete representation and a totally remote one as the online persona transfers off the site to function in the analog world not at all.

FaceBook attempts to build a universal web ID that you may present at various market places on the web and receive service. From YouTube to Amazon you are able to connect your commerce with your FaceBook persona. The social networks are attempting to be the online surrogates to the users analog identity. But the user has no use for this online identity when boarding a bus or ordering lunch at a diner. When the user presents themselves at the online front desk of a bookseller they are encouraged to cross identify themselves with their Twitter persona so that the network they associate with on the Twitter site will gain access to their actions on the bookseller’s site. Thus building more interconnected users. Online businesses currently rely heavily on this connection to propel their profitability. The business model of “word of mouth” has become, “word of click.”

Fame for All

Facebook, created by Mark Zuckerberg entered the Internet in 2004. A parallel platform for engagement in the newly established social network environment. It mimicked established brands like Friendster and MySpace. Both industry leaders at the time, built in response to what seemed a growing need or opportunity for connectivity. At the beginning of the first decade of the millennia the population of the planet had in its possession for the first time a device, a technology that allowed them to or rather demanded them to exhibit a public persona. Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame was now available to more persons than ever before. The media outlets exploded like a big bang of molecules drifting out away from each other still tethered by high-speed modems and public fiber optic cable installed and funded by Microsoft at the turn of the last century.
Jacques Ranciere writes about the true community aspired for at this time in his book Dissensus On Politics and Aesthetics,

A true community is a consensual community, not one in which everybody is in agreement, but one in which sense is in agreement with sense. The consensual community is a community in which the spiritual sense of being in common is embedded in the material sensorium of everyday experience. It is the community of an inseparate life in which there are no boundaries severing politics from economics, art, religion, or everyday life. According to the schema of the aesthetic revolution, the root of domination is separation. As a result, the full implementation of freedom and equality entails a re-unifying the various forms of collective intelligence into one and the same form of sensory experience. (81)

This description of true community accurately describes the efforts made by the social network to activate and entice its users into more and more information sharing. The internet was just flirting with connectivity of community when it exploded in access much like the early days of the telephone, in which every house rushed to join the network allowing vast distances to be ignored for the first time since the golden spike had been sunk in the transcontinental railroad in the 1850s.
The railroads allowed a crossing of the country in a matter of days compared to Lewis and Clarks three year adventure a mere fifty years prior. The telephones allowed instant response from another person living thousands of miles away. The fiber optic cables mixed with the communication satellites hanging in Geo Synchronies Orbit allowed not just connection of voice but also connection of full persona. We could maintain an archive of each other, which far out striped the file cabinets of the imagined big brother of George Orwell. Video, voice, written thoughts, and most importantly an identity cache unlike anything previously published by the public. More specifically Self Published, never before had so many people been so willing to talk about themselves. So willing to abandon solitude and launch clumsily into the town square every behavior and habit visible. This instinct cultivated by decades of movies and television, which equated happiness with fame. Fame in this case being lots of people aware of an individual and their idiosyncrasies. Once again the population had been convinced of their individual value through years of marketing which pumped up their egos and spoke to a faith that any of us could be loved if only enough people knew how special we really were. Just put someone in front of the public eye and they will become known and consequently valued.

The users of the Internet found they could build a profile on a social network site and instantly make their preferences for food, literature, music, and even love known by anyone or everyone. Early features of the social networks allowed users to post to a bulletin board that was broadcast instantly into everyone in their networks home. Hundreds of “friends” at every moment could suddenly know about a person’s movie choice for the night or a job interview that went badly. This of course had its repercussions but the largest was a new shared consciousness. The proletariat was on the move and they were forming up. Gallop polls becoming obsolete, trends and fads accelerating to light speed, literally as the fiber optics hummed with the information going forth from the crowd, building a new bar graph of likes and dislikes. The population was codifying in to a whole. Joining a network and becoming a member meant to establish ones role in the machine. Deleuze and Guattari describe such a machine when discussing Kafka in there book Kafka Toward a Minor Literature,

This is why we have been distinguishing in Kafkas’s work instances that are in fact enmeshed in each other – first, machinic indexes; then, abstract machines; and finally, the assemblages of the machine. The machinic indexes are the signs of an assemblage that has not yet been established or dismantled because one knows only the individual pieces that go into making it up, but not how they go together. Most frequently, these pieces are living beings, animals, but they are only valuable as moving pieces or configurations of an assemblage that goes beyond them and whose mystery remains because they are only the operators or executors of this assemblage.

The knowledge each user has of the social network is small and isolated. No user can manage anymore than their own corner or element of the large social network. The network functions only with the users input. Missing is any ability for the user to step into a new role in the machine. No hierarchy of usefulness exists in the social network. The engagement is on a single interface with the network. A user may view other users interface, but never more than one at a time and never simultaneous to viewing their own page. This creates a blindness of the individual in the machine. They cannot step back and see the machine as a whole. They can’t climb a hill and gain perspective on the entire network, they must only view it from their lowly place in the body. No one user can step into a room and find their true place in the machine.
But these are not simple appliances in the home set to give service in only one area. Decisions are being made based on ones network in a manner not seen prior. Before the shift, the population sought advice from the columns of the newspaper or the weekly musings of a 60 minutes anchor. They sought the expert, vetted and trusted to guide them to the right movie or vacation destination. The church guided the flock on giving to charities; the unions provided information on the candidates to vote for or against. Health and medicinal advice was proffered by the doctor in his holy office, his clients filtered by reception.

Waiting became a requisite of service, but the social network clobbers this. Pummels it into an early grave. Now the users could find a doctor by posting one simple notice to the online bulletin page, there for all two hundred networked experts to advise. Jose Antonio Vargas explains in his excellent New Yorker article Letter from Palo Alto,
“Zuckerberg imagines Facebook as, eventually, a layer underneath almost every electronic device. You’ll turn on your TV, and you’ll see that fourteen of your Facebook friends are watching “Entourage,” and that your parents taped “60 Minutes” for you. You’ll buy a brand-new phone, and you’ll just enter your credentials. All your friends—and perhaps directions to all the places you and they have visited recently—will be right there.”

He wants people to check in with their friends network from their handset devices before choosing a sandwich. Leading the user to only the best experiences, saving them the trouble of the wrong choice. The architects of these sites imagine a world with no wrong choices. Just less good ones. Where every decision is rated with a system of stars. Every professor, every route on the map, every hotel, every potential lover rated for the user, so that one may know upfront the risks one is taking in advance.
After the decision made and executed and broadcast back to the network, then the required feedbacks to either affirm the rating or dispose it. This to becomes a form of tuning the machine. Until the machine of the social network reaches the ambition of Utopian harmony. What greater life do the programmers for see for the people to come? The possibility of all chance removed. All decision making honed to such a fine blade that it would cut through life from cradle to grave with no adversity, no pain, nothing but a fictional perfection of the flawless life. What would an ideal life look like and would anyone recognize it should it form. Would everyone be as fabulously happy as the movie stars of our dreams? Would everyone then achieve the happiness perceived as the goal of all the fictional fairy tales? It is possible that the chances of failure are the only true meaningfulness anyone could hope to know? Which is to say, failure and the pain associated is what makes one feel alive. Ronald Bogue expands on Delueze and Guattari’s views on originality in his book Deleuz on Literature

…to invent something new is necessarily to invent something whose shape cannot be foreseen. The new emerges through a process of metamorphosis whose outcome is unpredictable. If writers find existing configurations of social relations unacceptable, their only option is to induce a metamorphosis of the established forms of the social field, with no guarantee that the result will be a more acceptable community. It is for this reason that in a minor literature expression precedes content: it is expression that outdistances or advances, it is expression that precedes contents either in order to prefigure the rigid forms into which they are going to flow or in order to make them take off along a line of flight or of transformation… (110)

The alternative, the life spent reliving decisions handed down by committee, the digital archive, would dull the human experience. The simulacra in full effect as the knowledge of who made the decision first, who picked Subway over Quiznos drifts into the erased source material. Would those choices start to ebb and flow as the trend pushes? The conservative parent who raises a liberal child, the grandchild returning to conservatism as a rebellion against the parent, not the ideals they portray.
Members of the social network lost the source or origins of their status as member of the network. There is no birth date for a user’s account. There is no seniority in the social network. No one user came first. And would it matter if we could find the dinosaurs of the industry. Long gone is the trend of the indie music scene, when seeing a band before they were “big” matters. Being on Twitter from the beginning buys a user exactly nothing in the market place. There is no credit attached to early adoption. In fact early adoption is a handicap as the variety of so many upstarts causes a user to rapidly sign up for new accounts on new sites hoping that it will hit the way Twitter did. Like a giant drunken belly flop into the pool of the social network. Splashing around and getting all over everyone with out really providing any enjoyment.

The first users are over shadowed by super networkers that have contacts numbering in the hundreds of thousands. People who have achieved network celebrity to such an extent that they can tweet a signal to their list and instantly reach more people than the national network news. The tweets arriving through no filter with no editor or organization attached to the content. The individual as loan media source, the institution of the social network providing the platform for broadcast but no accountability.


Contemporary society has done away with innovation. Specifically in the US the drive continues toward containing choice down to a finite number of choices, which can be profitably manufactured. This confinement can be seen in the lives we are building full of repeats and simulacra like menus of a fast food restaurant. Everyone’s experiences mimicking those of the successful celebrity or the contact on the social network. Walter Benjamin writes in his essay Baudelaire, or the Streets of Paris

Newness is a quality independent of the use value of the commodity. It is the origin of the semblance that belongs inalienably to images produced by the collective unconscious. It is the quintessence of that false consciousness whose indefatigable agent is fashion. This semblance of the new is reflected, like one mirror in another, in the semblance of the ever recurrent. The product of this reflection is the phantasmagoria of “cultural history,” in which the bourgeoisie enjoys its false consciousness to the full. (105)

For years people have been drawn to the runways of Paris and New York attempting to tap the genius fountains of the clothing designers. Trying to impersonate that genius and replicate it through out their own life. The commoner mimicking the dress of the king in an attempt to gain favor or set ones self above those who don’t know. But in this century the practice has infiltrated like a virus leaving its carriers without the slightest original thought or recognition of the original sources. Not the inability to make an original thought just an amazing lack of desire to make an original thought. Original thought is not dead just more obscure than ever before. The examples are plentiful and laughable. Every experience has become the act of traveling an already traversed path. From film to narrative fictional literature to recorded music, there are fewer and fewer moments where a persons individual participation is encouraged and fewer in which many individuals are experiencing private moments of discovery and growth.

The music concert of the past is instantly packaged and rebroadcast by its viewers via their handheld devices to the Internet where it is rated. The gift of experience is waning. The memory of the first punk show one ever saw is becoming corrupted by the blog post moments after the event. Did the author see that or experience it or are they producing an account of the event manicured to meet the idea of the “First Punk Show?” The event becomes reason for the post, instead of a post leading one to an unexpected music event. We find ourselves in a large amusement park in which the entrance gate was our birth. Each event in our life a separate ride planned by an architect and operated by a disinterested minimum wage employee.

The individuals participating in our replicated experience place little effort into their task. Because there is no effort in uploading ones latest take on the corner ice cream shop through Twitter feed. Twitter is a fast moving creature all its own, drawing its users out of participation of daily life and into a constant wired-in experience. The user to attain maximum event from Twitter must stay in constant contact with the site via handset device or Smartphone. Updating and checking updates of the feeds they follow. Literally feeding… A constant processing of information at a speed, which only a few years before would seem overwhelming. But the speed becomes an addiction and a safety net. Matt Richtell describes an extreme version of this user in his very good article for the New York Times titled Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

“The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says. For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Back at the ice cream parlor the participant stating “I will go with the pumpkin ice cream because it was recommended by 78% of the people who visited.” Where is the skepticism of the information? The Twitter feed and the user of that network are intertwined in a co-dependency of trust. But how did that trust grow strong enough to override personal investigation. The user now finds themselves reliant on the machine of the entire population of the patrons of the ice cream parlor. Personal investigation might lead the person into a decision based on logic. The store sells this flavor therefore it must be liked by many otherwise it would cease to be profitable and they would discontinue its sale. Likewise they might associate their previous experience with pumpkin ice cream and decide they enjoyed it in the past and chose it now. And how easy would it be to manipulate the Twitter feed, to hack the system and find ways in which to move the popularity of pumpkin ice cream up the list because they have a glut of it in stock. Twitter as a trusted source is a blind trust, because the recommendation cannot be challenged. The rules of fair play do not apply to the social network or the online world for that matter. Recently an online seller of designer eye wear discovered a method for beating the algorithm of recommendation employed by Google, as David Segal describes in his New York Times article

Mr. Borker maintained that scaring Ms. Rodriguez — and dozens of other customers in the last three years — enhanced the standing of DecorMyEyes in Internet searches on Google. That was because Google’s algorithm, he claimed, was unable to distinguish between praise and complaints. All of the negative postings translated into buzz, he said, which helped push DecorMyEyes higher in search results and increased his sales.
The Twitter feed which leads buyers to the best restaurants and best ice cream choices is just as susceptible to manipulation as is any social media. The network in order to function must be mechanized to such an extent as to remove individual directorship. The online polls only become powerful when a majority participates. That majority must be corralled by an algorithm or program designed and design allows for manipulation, intentional or unintentional the result is the same, the institution loses its credibility.

But of course even the menu is contrived. There are a limited number of options. The attempt by the ice cream parlor is to present a feeling of infinite choice to its customers. Someone may mix and match to such a degree that no one person could complete all the combinations, thus allowing originality. But originality would be in the individual spending time creating ice cream of his or her own. Even if one were to dedicate their life to making the perfect vanilla ice cream. They could make batch after batch and still discover millions of variations. This could be like the violinist practicing for years to achieve the desired tone and pitch from one song.

But the variations of the corner ice cream shop are finite. The manufacturers machines, inserted into the production process, are attempting to remove unanticipated variation from the product. The same McDonalds hamburger on six continents. The consumer comforted in the knowledge of the familiar. While familiarity is not wholly bad, transitioning every experience into the familiar cannot be the ultimate goal of human existence. What joy could we find in simply re-enacting everything? Re-incarnation to the extreme, not just the memories but the actions as well.
The Internet is generating this now. In a matter of years the world will crowd source politics, which for several generations it has attempted to do with opinion polling. One could argue that this is simply a digitization of voting, as we have known it. But that voting had a certain accountability, the current crowd sourcing lacks. Decisions based on a small number of users gaming the system to achieve outcomes more in line with their agendas. Like the eyeglass salesman, one user advancing his agenda outside the benefit of the group.

Politics has seemed to attempt to influence public opinion through actions. These actions executed based on the research from public opinion poll. But not in response to those opinion polls instead using those opinion polls to establish parameters for their special interest agendas. A generation weaned on the net as this current one being raised is and will be, likely will function more as a unit. A giant simulacra, a body with out organs guided by viruses of users functioning under the perception of the group. Moving from one redone trend to the next. These people living and re-acting the parts of history most famous or useful. Not doomed to repeat a forgotten history, simply stuck in a feedback loop of familiarity. The tyrants will not rise again just mediocre middle managers. When a crowd selects based on a larger number of options, the most loved does not rise to the top, just the least hated. That least hated is tolerable and after a time familiar and than trusted to such an extent that previous options seem unimaginable or grotesque.

The group’s choice will be near impossible to change. Why change the choice, if it has worked so many times in the past. Like the ice cream, I may not love this, but based on this advice I know I won’t hate it, and that’s at least a safe gamble. One in which I may love it but I for sure wont get hurt buy it. If everything in life could provide such a guarantee we would have no broken hearts or songs about broken hearts. Failure helps us mark the passage of time; risk gives us meaningfulness in our successes.
The complexities of contemporary life require not just a food producer and working class to harvest that food and bring it to market, but also an entertainment producer, a meaningfulness producer. Contemporary life relies on a perceived quality of life that has increasingly become reliant on the prescribed experiences we are having on the social network and through entertainment texts such as movies, video games, and television. I will hold back printed text, as this has become such a minor player.
This mass entertainment is now functioning as our town square where ideas are discussed vetted and decided upon and the central place of commerce. In a country of such diverse beliefs and values we find only two major political parties, and inside of those parties barely a hairs width between the opposing factions. We have decided what we are as Americans and what that means is very narrow. The American dream has been codified into a very simple set of outcomes with little surprise.
We are not interested in striking out and pioneering, we are not interested in restoring the grand nostalgia of days gone by. And as conservative as conservative you can find they refuse to give up their TVs and Internets. Nor will they return to small business that would really be conservative, a return to pre cell phone use, which would be conservative, or the choice to allow drilling for fossil fuels in new territories, which would be progressive. Progress and conservation no longer hold a definable existence. The uniform shape of the social network dismantles the perception of sides.

Why Commit to a Place

In the past a worker could pick an employer an institution they wish to enter or become a part of and grow with that institution over thirty years becoming more important to it, growing into a manager or senior member. But the current generation does not view any institution with that much permanence. They can select the company that puts up with their idiosyncrasies, not the other way round. They do not need to bend for the institution they do not see the possibility to enter the group and change the group and thus be changed and grow, instead they function with the arrogance that they are already fully formed and must select an institution that meets their needs not the other way round and they are continually disappointed when the choices are finite.

For this generation growing now it has seemed for several years that the choices have were limitless. Which clothes to buy which computer to buy and customize, they do not perceive the institution as something that can be changed. Instead seeing the massive older generation a head of them in line, the old firmly in control of the institution via their seniority and the younger perceive no room or no desire to enter at the junior level, only to become a cog for an indefinite period of time until they can be the voice of direction.

This feeling comes from years of marketing telling them they are all individuals and individually valuable. That they are desired for their specificity. That they should never settle. That anyone of them can rise from obscurity to be a star. They have seen the world’s behavior toward, Sara Palin, dancing with the stars, or Justin Beiber discovered on a YouTube video. Beiber now selling out concerts around the globe. They have learned that fame and power comes from chance and the right timing. Fame and success can be yours if you just find the right person to discover you. You don’t have to work hard to rise up the ladder. The CEO will be handpicked and handed control of the entire company by a board of directors. You won’t be hired from with in. You will be brought in as a celebrity and you will have all the control you want and seniority has no place in this.

This is the story handed to them through countless media reports of success. The narrative has not been for several years that one person rode the ladder long enough to be in charge and bring years of learned wisdom to the decision making job. But George Bush was elected with no experience, the current narrative tells them not to move into a system and merge with it and change it, instead they are told, we were born with a deserving position, we deserve success and the students in today’s colleges are graduating and not getting jobs because they don’t perceive their role to be that of beginner. Their role is instead that of unknown celebrity on their way to being in charge. The individual celebrity born of building profiles on social networks and amassing thousands of friends and even followers. A fictional belief in their own self-importance, because that is a very marketable narrative to sell products. You are the most valuable consumer and you should want our product because that makes you savvy. And being savvy leads to being the head of a the largest automotive company in the country.

Onward to the Social Utopia

There will be no turning back of the tide. Fire has been invented. The social network is present and firmly planted. The only debate will now be the use and perception of it by its users. The people to come are here, and the moment we try to form a working definition of them they slip fast away from our definitions, hiding behind their invented personas. The question is have we built for them a life worth living? In the fine book Participation edited by Claire Bishop a passage retelling an epic moment is presented, I present it here again, as the representation of text has become the message of the day.

During a debate with Theodor Adorno in 1964, Ernst Bloch, pushed to the wall to defend his position on utopia, stood firm. Adorno had begun things by reminding everyone present that certain utopian dreams had actually been fulfilled, that there was now television, the possibility of travelling to other planets, and moving faster than sound. And yet these dreams had come shrouded, minds set in traction by a relentless positivism and then their own boredom. ‘One could perhaps say in general’, he noted, ‘that the fulfillment of utopia consists largely only in a repetition of the continually same “today”.’(184)

copyright 2010 Patrick Melroy


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