Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The boy electric

From Wikipedia:

"The word media derived from medium (from Latin, in which it means, "the one in the middle") can have different meanings in different contexts."

Part I
(Strapped to the Machine)

The boy sits amongst piles of wires. He smells the sweet sour smell of iron, metal- liquid-dust rotting the insides of the cables attatched to his arms, legs, joints...a techno-puppet pulled by invisible strings. Is this life or merely a new form of communication? The boy pulls at the wires, stretching grey matter sinews from every inch of his brain. He thinks about the past: the smell of grass, visits to the natural museum of history as a small child, his first kiss...sloppy and filled with the metallic clinking sounds of 15 year old braces. Is the past gone? Is there nothing left for the boy but the non-linear digital world of the future, a cold lifeless life tangled in wires? The boy wants life to be simple. Linear. The boy wants to move through life like a rat, clawing through a maze, squeaking his way towards the ultimate prize. The ultimate goal. The end of a fairy tale. He pushes and pulls at the strings, struggling to communicate personally in a world dominated by machines. Is the future filled with promise? Are we moving towards something new, something inovative? Or are we simply making life more complicated with every keystroke, every click of a mouse? The boy wonders this as he is strapped to the machine, arms flailing, his mind a digital mess of digits, signs, symbols, equations.
"What are the dangers of the machine?"
The machine caresses the boy, wires cradle his head maternally. It's so inviting, so seemingly personal. Every instant message, ever hyperlink leads to a whole new individual world of communication, a whole new source of gratification for the boy. Click. The history of the bubonic plague. Click. Encyclopedia Britanica! Click. Live chat with russian mail order brides. Click. Become an online minister! Click. Moby Dick $19.99! Click. The boy begins to sweat electronic oil, his skin lubricated with excitement by all the possibilities of interaction with the outside world. Click. Free airplane ticket to Europe. Click. Groceries delivered to your door. Click. Mozart's "Jupiter" symphony 41 pumped through stereo hi-fi titanium speakers. Suddenly his past, his visits to the natural history museum, his first kiss, the smell of grass mean nothing to the boy. Click. Flickrgrandma's 87th birthday. Click. Online buddylist. Click. In this new technological fantasy world, identity is anonymous, the past is trivial. The boy can experience true collective thinking. He is, for the first time in his life, part of a community. He feels accepted. He belongs. He can blog. But where is his sense of self? What is the point of interacting with strangers over a vast network of other lost boys and girls? When all of your friends fit in a folder, what do you do at 10pm on a friday night?

From Wikipedia:

"The Internet, the extensive, worldwide computer network is a more general term informally used to describe any set of interconnected computer networks that are connected by internetworking."

Part II
(The Past)

The first time the boy met the machine was at the natural history museum in Los Angeles. Whale skeletons dangled from the ceiling by invisible wires, and ants and beetles crawled over eachother in glass cases filled with sawdust. While spiders weaved nets made of stretchy stringy fluid, the boy was drawn to a different kind of net. One console. One lone computer sat in the midst of taxidermied lions and freeze dried gorrilas, ferret bones and quartz rocks from Colorado. One keyboard console amongst thousands of years of cavemen, insects, continental drift. The internet. An exhibit suddenly worthy of natural history status. The boy approached the console, fingers outstretched and eyes wide open. His digits sweeped the keys. "www" The first thing the fifteen year old boy's eyes saw of the internet was the pale blue glow of the Mtv website. It was a simple page, filled with grotesque comics and pictures pop culture princesses. Hardly any links, hardly any personal interaction and yet despite the lack of museum worthy content, the boy fell in love. For the first time in his brief fifteen years, the boy could reach out and touch something, a metaphysical object that millions of other fifteen year old boys could also see at the same time, no matter what country they were from, or what ethnicity they were, or how much they had in common. The boy knew that thousands of people, thousands of other boys like himself, had seen the Mtv website and for the first time in his life, he felt connected.

From Wikipedia:

"In mathematics, nonlinear systems represent systems whose behavior is not expressible as a linear function of its descriptors; that is, such systems are not linear. In nonlinear systems one encounters such phenomena as chaos effects, strange attractors, and freak waves. Whilst some nonlinear systems and equations of general interest have been extensively studied, the vast majority are poorly understood if at all."

Part III

The boy sits at home in his electronic box one night in Autumn wondering if his life is over. How much value does life have when everything is nonlinear? Life is inhearantly linear. Life is like some sort of ellaborate deli sandwhich. You are born, you live, and you die with all the pickles, cheese and dressing in between. But this machine, this new form of history, isn't linear in the slightest. When the boy is attatched to the machine he can travel back in time. He can recall pictures of events he wasn't even alive for. While attatched to wires and cables, the boy can be anyone. He can be a rockstar. He can be a 50 year old woman from Kansas. He can create media and sell it to millions of viewers in Prague without leaving his easy chair in west Los Angeles. But does he ever meet anyone new? Does he ever truly interact? Sure he can sell hundreds of megabytes of canned video to hip European production companys, but the boy has never been oustide of North America. He has never touched the base of the Eiffel tower. He has never eaten paella in Madrid or drank wine in Italy. He has never lived outside of his world of wires and networks. Is this life, or nonlinear fantasy? The boy has seen Starry Night but only at 834 X 680 pixels. He has never seen a canvas swiped by Van Goghs actual brush. In 100 years, will the entire internet be considered a fantastic experiment gone wrong? Is the net merely a pair of 3D glasses for the 21st century audience? Are we all, like the boy, becoming digital spirits trapped in a lifeless world of wires and cables? One day will we forget what it's like to visit the natural history museum and actually SEE dinosaur bones from 50 million years ago? In the future, will we no longer experience the awkward anxiety of a first kiss? Will we dissasociate from all human interaction, plugging ourselves into apocalyptic machines bent on destroying emotional and physical connection? Will there be touch in the future? Will there be interior as well as exterior life?

Quote from
Forbidden Planet (1956)
[About oxygen.]
Robby the Robot: I rarely use it myself, sir. It promotes rust.

Part IV
(The Future AKA Sleep)

The boy sits amongst a pile of wires. He wants to die young. To escape the linear. To escape growing old. In the machine no one grows old, rather we suddenly evaporate. To die on the internet means several things: Your email address suddenly becomes useless. However, it takes months for your friends to realize that no one is responding to their numerous emails and even then, they don't realize that you've died, but instead assume that you are out of town on vacation or simply depressed. Your flickr account no longer exceeds your monthly megabyte limit. Your blog mysteriously ends without any conclusion whatsoever. Your online girlfriends (having never met you) never will meet you for that coffee you almost asked them to meet you for. The world is a safer, cleaner place. Blood doesn't bleed. Tears aren't shed. Wires engulf the boy. They feel warm. He wants to fall asleep wrapped in their glow. He closes his eyes. Visions flash through his mind but he is unable to focus on any specific memory. The natu32ral hi398498story mus1102eum, his fir3190st ki198274ss, the sme293l3l of gra21ss in J23uly. The boy squints his eyes, he wants to remember. His mind is jumbled. W31ww insec32ts whale starry12 n29ight. The wires entangle his legs, slowly crawling up his thighs. Digits23 sign2s sy39mbols. The cables make their way up his chest and over his torso, engulfing the boy in electric anonymity. Connect. Disconnect.
And the boy is gone.

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