What Dreams May Come

As this is the final weekly post for this blog and I won’t likely have another formal opportunity, I’d like to take a moment and extend my sincere gratitude to you, the reader. Thank you for enduring my endless prattle, overextended lexicon, and sharp tongue throughout this semester.

You have all demonstrated a patience beyond explanation- and I hope you all understand how deeply I’ve enjoyed your company. Although I cannot claim to know what dreams may come for each of you: I do know that you all possess a warmth that has melted even the darkest corners of my Slytherin heart. Kudos.

But I digress. Identity.

maskThere’s something sinister about white words on a white wall.

 

Me & We

city

When I ask you to consider the word ‘identity’ what images come to your mind?

If you’re like most people you probably get a mental image of yourself, perhaps the image of looking at yourself in a mirror. Perhaps you think about the voice in your head, or better yet- your goals and aspirations for the future. Perhaps you think of elements of your character you don’t like, things you wish you could change but haven’t found the will just yet: regardless, we each have a different mental representation of ‘identity’.

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you to consider a different kind of identity: collective identity. Cultural identity. Societal identity. Think about your identity within the groups you belong. Does the image change? Is there conflict between these two characters? It’s an interesting thought, but admittedly not where I’m heading with this post.

Before we can begin to look at ourselves I think it’s important to get clear on the context: our culture, and our extended world. If you find yourself wanting to start from the inside out rather than the outside in, hold that thought: I’ll be returning to it.*

All too often we view life as a zero-sum game. Win or lose. Pass or fail. Job or no job. Happy or sad. Celebrity or nobody. Talent or average. Healthy or sick. But is life really like that?

One can’t help but notice the paradox in some of our episodes. A child comes home from school, upset that they’ve received poor marks on a homework assignment. They’re distraught because they’ve just had the realization that they aren’t quite the infallible genius they once thought, and that, regrettably, they’re quite average at correcting comma splices. They confide in their parents about these things, and what will they do? They’ll sit them down and encourage them with endless reassurances. “It’s okay if you’re not a genius- I’ll love you no matter what, even if you’re not famous or a best-selling author, you’re my kiddo and that’s what’s important,” only to flop back down on the couch and return to another episode of American Idol. We live in a culture obsessed with celebrity and status and fame and money.

And violence. Incidentally, we also live in a world running hot. Turn on the television during primetime, what do you see? Television shows that have people shooting people. Turn on the radio and what do you hear? Rappers talking about people shooting people. What’s on the news? The daily episodes of people shooting people. Boot up a video game and what do you do? Shoot people. Is it surprising that there’s a startling about of gun violence in our country? One can’t help but open a newspaper or get through a television show without seeing these types of images. As a culture, we don’t frown upon guns: we esteem them. We put them in the public spotlight to such a perverse degree that we can’t easily get the message out of our face.

*Why then is it worth considering the outside in? Why not look inside for the answers of identity before looking at the world around us?

(Esoteric territory) .. Because I believe that life isn’t that type of game. As much as our intuitions try tell us, we don’t win or lose as individuals. Life is rarely if ever a game about individual identity. Life is a game about groups, teams, schools, businesses, families, etc. and rarely do people do anything on their own. Even in our most solitary moments we are not alone: we draw from the cumulative experiences we’ve shared with other people. When we feel that we are, I would argue that this is simply another illusion of the ego -that voice in our heads that commands our attention and demands recognition- and I’ll discuss it next time.

And this is part of them problem. We’re all too busy playing the “ME” game instead of the “WE” game. Our culture tells us that celebrity and status are the vogue and generosity is synonymous with weakness. It seems to me that until we can transform how we view the collective society, we have no hope of transforming ourselves.

Find A New Way

/Rise Against – Savior, Survive/
/Nine Inch Nails – The Perfect Drug/

As the semester continues to unfold and midterms pass I feel as though now is the perfect time for this blog to endure a state of transition, too.

Up to this point I’ve written exclusively about technology — how we experience it, use it, perceive it, and ultimately, how we are affected by it. With that in mind, the title of this blog seems to imply that a second side of the coin exists: a side that I’ve intentionally avoided. An issue that is as intuitive as it is mysterious: the concept of identity.

Who am I in this vast world?
What does it mean to be an individual within our culture?
How does one reconcile the state of the world?
And lastly, what is the ego? — What is ultimate responsibility for our actions?

In the weeks to come I will explore these questions at length, reveal the mysteries that keep me up at night, and above all else, I will invite you to share in them with me.

Thank you for your time.

 

The Evolution of I

/Ed Sheeran – You Need Me, I Don’t Need You (Loadstar Remix)/
/Infected Mushroom – Deeply DisturbedCities of the Future/
/Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round/

[This content is part of an ongoing series titled Civility is Dead. It aims to explore the emerging role of technology in our lives, and specifically, how these innovations continue to revise the ethics of communication for participants of the human experience.]

As the tools and methods we use to communicate change, so does what we communicate.

I’ll say that again because it’s bears repeating: as the tools and methods we use to communicate change, so does what we communicate. Not only does evolving technology heavily influence how we interact, but it also plays a critical role in determining what we express to one-another during these exchanges.

mindovermatter

Within the world of technology, the rate at which dramatic innovation takes place defies both logic and explanation. It is not, however, without consistency. Even the most inconceivable of developments occur on such a reliably frequent basis that many of the most successful avant-garde inventors of our world do not dare to rest on their laurels. We know that technology is being redefined moment by moment, and that even now — even as you read this very sentence — somewhere on this earth human minds are at work to this end.

Change for technology, it seems, is not only an immutable fact of our civilization but also an important component of our personal lives. Technology is now at the core of the human experience — married to our lives and culture in ways that we don’t quite yet fully appreciate.

We live at a time when owning the newest phone and having the latest app is the vogue. We televise, applaud, and envy the fanatics that wait in line for days on end simply to acquire the latest and greatest devices. The media showers the tech world with a spotlight of affinity that, for some, is difficult to reconcile with the state of the world today. People are literally dying, countries are involved in unending war and political tribalism, and what’s making the headlines on Google News this week? Facebook’s sudden acquisition of WhatsApp, and the FlappyBird phenomenon: applications that, for better or worse, have landed on tens of millions of American devices.

Even when we consider our personal lives it becomes all too apparent that technology’s claws have drawn blood here, too. Consider the case of the smart phone, technology that’s hardly a decade old. In our culture today, not owning a smart phone is nothing short of taboo, and as someone that didn’t own one for a long time, can testify for the types of reactions one garners when offering this information. Huh, you don’t have one? Are you poor? 

Imagine how your friends, family, and future employers would react if you declined the use of Facebook, a smart phone, or the internet. The terms “shock” and “awe” come to mind. The reality is that these platforms flagrantly (and publicly) command our attention and guide the social ethics of our world. But I digress.

The fact of technology’s change is undeniable — we open our eyes to the world around us and we can’t help but look on as the devices that consume our attention transform in unbelievable ways every day. But when we ask ourselves if this technology changes us, our answer begins to grows tenuous.

 

 

A Wild Thing Appears!

/Calvin Harris – Colours (lol1, lol2)/

Just when you think you’ve seen everything the internet has to offer, someone comes along and plugs the better part of humanity into a single emulated gameboy playing Pokemon. The result, as one might imagine, is unmitigated chaos.

This social experiment, hereafter referred to as ‘Twitch Plays Pokemon‘ (TPP) is the brainchild of an anonymous Australian researcher, and at the time of this writing has received over thirty million unique views. The game, running 24/7 for over two weeks, typically has tens of thousands of people watching, playing, and chatting at any given moment. The story has been picked up by CNN, Huffington Post, The Guardian, ARSTechnica, and Wired, among many media outlets.

At the risk of being direct: several things stand out to me as notable. Perhaps most apparent is that we’re seeing a strange new way for people to interact online: it’s the culmination of watching, gaming, and social interaction all at once on a massive scale. There’s an energy here that can’t quite be captured in words — look at the stream to see what I’m talking about.

Likewise, because the event continues to span days, we’re seeing an almost episodic-like lore emerge from the community. As the game continues to unfold, players from around the world are creating and sharing stories about the characters and events that take place within the game. For example, check out some of the fantastic fan art that has emerged over the last few days:

It’s a fascinating event that words can’t quite capture.

There’s an energy and excitement to see the world defeat this one video game that, quite frankly, is almost too nutty to believe. If nothing else, this event stands to illustrate one point: the game is constantly changing. The nature of media and entertainment is constantly changing — and we can’t control it.

All we can do is hold on, take a deep breath, and watch as the storm unfolds.
Even if it’s, um,.. pokemon.

The Desert of the Real


Source

Stop. Now. The present moment. This second. Breathe in, breathe out. Ask yourself who you are and why you’re reading this content. Ask yourself why I’m writing it. Stop for a moment and feel for your heartbeat. If you can’t find it, wait until it shows up. Take another breath. Blink. When you are here with me, continue reading.

What gives? Well, I’m attempting (in a roundabout way) to compel you into the present moment. Chances are I’m having to fight tooth-and-nail for a spot amidst your stream of consciousness. You are, as I am, always fighting the unending stream of unconscious thoughts and images that seek to reclaim our attention.

Even now as I write this post the battle is being waged. Homework. Class in the morning. Programming. The words and images fly off my fingers before my mind can politely decline the offer. In this moment I am struggling to direct the spotlight of my mind to focus on the task at hand, which ironically, is to articulate the relevance of attention to technology.

This post is wildly incomplete, and should be treated as such. Err, scratch that. This post is done. Dun. Dun. Dun. (Hue Hue Hue.)

As I’m so interested in the topic I’ve decided to make this into a series. When I return to it, I’ll be discussing how technology impacts this topic.

80’s Night

I need to confess something at the outset: I listened (and sang along) to this music video before writing this post. Needless to say the effects of the video were instant: even I do not know if my moral compass will ever return. If you, the reader, have any sense of decency you will take that into account before passing judgment. C’est la vie.

I’ve often heard it said that technology lends itself quite nicely to market segmentation. That is, the concept that –due to the faculties of technology– content is now so readily customized that, we as consumers don’t need (or want) material outside of our own specialized little bubbles. Well (pardon my 90’s) hong-kong-phooey to that.

The reality is that the biggest platforms of the web would beg to disagree. Websites and services like Pandora, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook are all about sharing material between users. It’s the reason why, as an advertising student living in Texas, I have interests in topics as wide and varied as one can imagine.

Technology is the tool that has enabled these interests. In fact: technology is the sole reason as to why I’m bellowing out a crescendo of unseemly energy deep into the night. So don’t blame Canada. Don’t blame Billy Idol: blame the internet.

TLDR: Apparently it’s 80’s night at casa de Witt … and technology is to blame.

On football, food, and family.

I spent the afternoon out in Burnet, helping my father adhere a post to the side of his fence. Ever imagine how it feels standing idly in the cold rain for a few hours with a handful of rusty nails? It’s great. Try it sometime.

The evening was a little more relaxed. We sat as a family and watched the Superbowl. Despite only living an hour or so away, I don’t often find a chance to come out and visit — so it was a nice change of pace. Of course we gathered around the television, offering opinions and insights into every little advertisement that presented itself.

Tonight, however, I took the opportunity to make a mental note each and every time the web was consulted for information. Bruno Mars’ age? 28. The name of that vaguely familiar actor? Ron Riggle. Is it true that 24 is really coming back? Apparently so. Each and every time anyone in the room used a device to retrieve information I made note of it.

The next question is naturally a resounding: why? Why does it matter? Perhaps I’m being a tad pedantic here, but I can’t help but feel that these incidents symbolize how technology is changing our lives. Now, when we’re presented with a question, we simply whisk ourselves away to the nearest web-enabled device to consult the all-powerful Google. Why endure the slow and tedious process of recalling such information ourselves when the magic of the internet has it available on-hand at all hours of the day? It’s a conundrum that we all fail to reconcile in the face of our undeniable dependency on these services.

… Somewhere in there was a profound thought transitioning seamlessly into a conclusion. I’m afraid I’ve lost it. Oh well. Take a pair of dancing alligators and an awesome music video as consolation. Chalk this one up to a short retention span produced from technological dependencies born within our society. Or something else. It’s all good.