While too many forces — most of all family and advertising — try to pass the idea each one of us is special or different and that we should 'express ourselves' or something, it’s always worth reminding that we are not so special. Nobody is; and there is a very real sense of safety in numbers in embracing the possibility of being trite and the clichéd, and in recognizing people similar to us most certainly had the same ideas. This seems like a recipe for conformity, but therein lies the real challenge: not in expressing our (not so) unique selves, but in maintaining critical freedom from the twin desires of fitting in and of being unique.
While we’re on the subject, here’s an amusing scientific paper titled The hipster effect: When anticonformists all look the same (PDF). And so it may be asked, why shouldn’t anticonformists look the same? And why should we care — as long as the anticonformists are true anticonformists? Boing Boing
Jim Leonard’s (aka Trixter) 8088 Domination, a PC demo that makes use of some neat tricks to display fullscreen color video on a 1981 IBM PC. Keeping in mind that these thirty-three year old machines are orders of magnitude less powerful than today’s electronics, you can see how today’s software is incredibly bloated stuff built atop piles upon piles of abstraction.
If three decades later someone can figure out how to display video using a modest early model PC, what kind of applications will someone build, three decades hence, extracting every bit of capability from today’s computers bare metal?
Wallpeople is an ephemeral collaborative art project that takes place simultaneously on a number of cities worldwide. Here in Porto the June 7th event happened downtown at Rua das Flores, and I was there to film it.
I had no idea the Chinese (or at least the citizens of Beijing) had a sense of public space similar to the Spaniards. Just look at how they make themselves at home in the streets a night: we Portuguese could learn a thing or two.
The Innovation of Loneliness by Shimi Cohen, after a TED presentation by Sherry Turkle. I wouldn’t normally post this sort of thing. I tend to find motion infographics simplistic and distracting, and as for TED talks, once genuinely interesting, these now often resemble sales pitches (to say nothing of the full-on sleaze of TEDx events) for books that tell you What You Already Suspected: e.g. social networking increases feelings of isolation, loneliness, and therefore are not good for you.
As clichéd and trite as this idea now is, clichés tend by definition to be true and some do deserve sustained repeating and, indeed, ‘sharing’ on ‘social networking’ platforms. So, even though we know better, we can’t help but look at our 250 ‘friends’ on Facebook and feel we should be more ‘engaging’, that a lack of response to the stuff we ‘share’ (I promise I’ll stop with the irony quotes) must mean nobody actually cares about us. We make the mistake of confounding our unreplied (or worse — unreplied but ✓seen*) messages and unliked posts with a qualitative assessment about ourselves — the same mistake many artists make when they mistake themselves for their work.
Facebook, if I may add a few more of my trite thoughts about it, is not your old High School cafeteria, despite often resembling a virtual version of it. If you are, as I hope, someone with a sense of etiquette and democratic values, I believe that instead of feeling rejected and worthless because someone ✓sees your messages and declines to reply, perhaps it makes better sense for you to unfriend that person. (The same goes for cellphone texts, by the way.) Or at least to organize them in a ‘doghouse’ group where they are still ‘friends’ with you but blocked out of your stuff, which is perhaps worse. (I don’t believe this is too harsh. What would be said of someone who blatantly ignores ‘friends’ in face-to-face situations? Or should we consider that, as Facebook is not a virtual playground, elementary social customs and rules of etiquette do not apply?) Same thing goes for people who go and bully you publicly in comments to your posts, something a grown-up never would in real life. Ask yourself: are these people good for you? Should they see your stuff? Should you be looking at photos of all the sushi a non-responder had for lunch?
If one wishes further motivation to take socialization offline, one can also open the doors of paranoia and consider the power companies such as Facebook, Inc. have in mediating people’s interactions. (Can we completely and unarguably dismiss the possibility some FB, Inc. researcher is running cruel psychology experiments on some of its users, subtly changing the content of instant messages, labeling unreceived messages as ✓seen, etc. in order to provoke and study the reactions of the recipients? This may of course seem delusional, but in the light of recent NSA spying revelations we know that if something is technically feasible someone will do it. Think about the crimes of pharmaceutical research in impoverished countries, and how intentionally causing friends to argue because of miscommunication would be child’s play — even though one can guess it would cause a lot more outrage. Are there moratoria against such tampering with communications and against running such experiments in transnational networks? Would it be possible to enforce such a moratorium?)
It takes conscious effort to go on Facebook and not get sucked too deeply into the ‘social’ lie. I try to remind myself it is in essence just a mix between a (rather unreliable) group blog and an address book with some (again, unreliable) instant messaging features. Socializing is what happens outside of Facebook, indeed, outside any mediation. Online platforms should at best handle the introductions, the reacquaintances, and at most, outward-pointing chit-chat. So it’s nice to watch the above video and remind ourselves such a distortion of reality — loneliness, lack of ‘engagement’ with ‘friends’ — is just the smooth running of ‘social networking’ platforms.
Hence my paradoxical sharing — don’t feel obliged to like or favorite this post, though. I’ll be fine.
* When I first saw a ✓seen timestamp in a message window I thought people at FB, Inc. were trying to engineer social behaviour — i.e. forcing avoidant responders to come up with something or look bad. I think they miscalculated to what an extent some people just won’t care about what others think.
A rainy day not so rainy since I heard this on the radio a few hours ago: John Wizards' Lusaka by Night.
I could describe Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s Frances Ha as a film that crosses elements from Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise and Terry Zwigoff / Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World but such namedropping, while accurate, might mislead you into thinking Frances Ha is a self-conscious and highly referential indie. It is not.
Baumbach and Gerwig built the rarest of filmic pleasures nowadays, a completely contemporary motion picture that stands alone, no references required. No other film I’ve seen recently is as remotely accurate as what it like to be a young (and perhaps "undateable!") adult nowadays, the New York City setting being totally irrelevant to its ressonance. The sequence (minor spoiler) in which Frances goes into debt and spends a weekend in Paris all by herself is utterly soul-crushing, way more poignant than the science fictional, literal aloneness Sandra Bullock’s character endures in Alfonso Cuáron’s Gravity (also an incredibly good movie on a wholly separate set of merits).
Do yourself a favour and watch Frances Ha as soon as possible.