11 posts tagged technology
Anthony Lane gives Video on Demand a dressing down, but disguises the effort as a review of Tower Heist and Melancholia.
What other literary works would you like to see get this kind of treatment?
I just received a call from a friend in Cairo (I won’t say who it is now because he’s a prominent activist) telling me neither his DSL nor his USB internet service is working. I’ve just checked with two other friends in different parts of Cairo and their internet is not working either.
This just happened 10 minutes ago — and perhaps not uncoincidentally just after AP TV posted a video of a man being shot.
Will update with more info. The ISPs being used by my friends are TEDATA, Vodafone, and Egynet.
From Zadie Smith’s “Generation Why?” reviewing The Social Network, Facebook, and two Zuckerbergs.
Smith makes an interesting move here. She sets Sorkin’s Zuckerberg over and against the real Zuckerberg in order to understand not—as is typical of recent reviews—the social forces behind the technology, but instead the technological forces behind our social world.
In some ways, her review “repurposes” Marshal McLuhan’s decades-old critiques for the software and audience of the new millennium. The medium is no longer the message so much as it is a social template, a mold constricting the freedom with which each individual constructs a self.
Facebook, she claims, patterns us after its founder, who is not Sorkin’s machiavel, but rather the essence of banality. And thus Facebook’s software reduces us to this same essence.
The thesis is reductive, on one hand, but experientially accurate on the other. The more honest voices in my head proclaimed for the truth of Smith’s analysis. But oddly, these same voices hardly demurred when it came to Tumblr.
I suspect this has something to do with the relatively pure state of virtuality on Tumblr. Unlike Facebook friends (for the most part), Tumblr identities are engendered in the same medium in which they develop. For the most part, there are far fewer will-o-wisps of purported reality, fewer analogues to the actual, that are the stuff of Facebook dreams.
All of this goes to say: Smith was incredibly savvy in making the gap between the fictional and real Zuckerbergs the springboard for her analysis of the latter’s creation.
Few days pass, it seems, without a new report or commentary on the state of print and on the future of the electronic word. Some eulogize print while railing against the bytes that bleed the plasma of our mind. Some declare imminent victory for the electronic book, and necessarily see the novel in print as the illuminated manuscript of our future. Most often, they strike a fair and balanced tone, noting that, of course, we will enjoy a farrago of media, meaning that we will need to come to a more acute understanding of the contexts, content and qualities unique to print and electronic texts.
The day before I left London to move to Ankara, I took a brief excursion to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I found myself spellbound by the medieval manuscripts on display, by the vibrancy of color, the idiosyncratic richness of the script, and the uncanny collusion of form and content.
These manuscripts helped me understand what Benjamin meant when he proposed his notion of ‘aura.’ (Maybe I never understood this concept as well as I’d convinced myself I had.) Between the content of the gospels and the beauty of the text, both contained within the V&A manuscripts, there was a “third” meaning that superseded both, while remaining elusive.
And yet. Soon after peering into the glass boxes containing the manuscripts, I wandered into a side-hall lined with computers containing educational programs designed to flesh out and clarify the manuscripts. The digital representations allowed me to range over the intricacies of the text and color, to zoom in and out according to the vagaries of my curiosity.
And I loved it. But maybe I was craven, and needed the comfort provided by losing the physical object’s property of evasive ambiguity. Maybe the permanence hinted at but only falsely achieved by the physical page is what this elusiveness was all about.
(So long, I’m off to read a book)
If this nascent research on the web’s alteration of our neural pathways has merit, and our brains lose their capacity for extended concentration, and, ironically, we can no longer benefit from the prodigious increase in information at our behest, then I have some questions for those of you out there with an actual education in neuroscience.
First of all: what is the effect that long, extended reading has on our ability to process the more fragmented information we get through the web?
Many if not most of the people I know balance their web time with extended time reading of long fictional and non-fictional narratives. In the morning, they will troll their RSS feeds and Tumblr dashboards; and in the evening, they will sit down to read a novel or a feature piece in the NYRB.
But here is what I don’t know, not even “experientially:” are these two forms of engaging information complementary or incompatible practices?
Does our morning time spent scrolling through Tumblr undermine our ability to read Thomas Mann at night? Or does a careful, considered perusal of a long feature piece in the New Yorker help us assemble and consider the shards of discourse scattered across the web?