Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Screen people

"When technology shifts, it bends the culture," Kevin Kelly wrote last month in "Becoming Screen Literate" (NY Times Magazine --11/23/08). I'd say that's indisputable. Yet I'm always surprised at how many people shift & bend without seeming to notice, let alone resist. They adapt (as humans have always done). The new magic is too potent. In the face of it, resistance is futile. Why not obey? And, if you have no choice, why not adapt in style?

Dialin' & stylin'-- textin' & nextin'
"Texting," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

In fact, Kelly's important & generally well-done article is not at all about what I wrote above. That's my thing. I do plan to write more about Kelly's ideas in upcoming posts. But first, a last curmudgeonly swipe at the techno-utopian aria that ends the piece & is, to my mind, too typical of the way we imagine technology. I thought this kind of rapture writing went away when the dot com bubble burst.

"With our fingers we will drag objects out of films and cast them in our own movies. A click of our phone camera will capture a landscape, then display its history, which we can use to annotate the image. Text, sound, motion will continue to merge into a single intermedia as they flow through the always-on network. With the assistance of screen fluency tools we might even be able to summon up realistic fantasies spontaneously. Standing before a screen, we could create the visual image of a turquoise rose, glistening with dew, poised in a trim ruby vase, as fast as we could write these words. If we were truly screen literate, maybe even faster. And that is just the opening scene."

Wow! Watch out, you closet romantics. Nerd heaven is starting to sound like Coleridge on two grains of opium.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea...

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