Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the phenomenology of digital life part 359

"The idea of free time has been losing its meaning in the Internet era. We end up idling with the same computers we once used to be productive and make money, and the convergence has made it increasingly difficult to be genuinely non-productive....   the average daily person spent 100 minutes relaxing online, about a third of the five hours of free time most people have.... As our leisure time becomes less physically social, it becomes more focused on seeking and discovering, driven by an ironic sense of absence.....  The feeling of being enmeshed in an aura of perpetually unfulfilled possibility emanating from one’s laptop screen is quickly becoming one of the hallmarks of our time and place, chasing after random story threads and trivial curiosities that wipe one’s memory clean for a few minutes or hours. 
"Watching television and reading a few magazines a month were certainly commodified forms of leisure, but the Internet has multiplied these forms, turned them interactive, and charged them with an increasing pace that is both impossible to fully absorb, and yet painful to step away from for fear of missing out on something that cannot be genuinely experienced in retrospect...

"An increasingly large percentage of the content in these channels is an abstract form of productivity that has wormed its way into our leisure... These points of overlap where work and relaxation seem to become dopplegangers are not just signs of an increasing leisure culture, but affects of a society that has made work so pervasive it sometimes feels impossible to tell when one is and isn’t working. Even when we’re not working our brains are looking for ways that we could be, in which light the Internet is what we have built for ourselves to drain that need."

Thomsen concedes that in the analogue era there was arguably just as much frittering away of time through purposeless idling (gawping at shit TV, daydreaming, doodling, puzzles, etc). But I think it was a different kind of vacancy, precisely because less purposive - pseudo-purposive, quasi-productive -- than the searching/liking/interacting/commenting/cut+pasting modes of web life.  A form of idling and squandering of time that was more conducive to creativity, in so far as in those voids, ideas would generate.  At very least it was genuinely relaxing, real down time.

See also: Mark Fisher's essay on time wars  and  that "strange kind of existential state, in which exhaustion bleeds into insomniac overstimulation (no matter how tired we are, there is still time for one more click) and enjoyment and anxiety co-exist (the urge to check emails, for instance, is both something we must do for work and a libidinal compulsion, a psychoanalytic drive that is never satisfied no matter how many messages we receive). The fact that the smart phone makes cyberspace available practically anywhere at anytime means that boredom (or at least the old style, ‘Fordist’ boredom) has effectively been eliminated from social life. Yet boredom, like death, posed existential challenges that are far more easily deferred in the always-on cyberspatial environment. Ultimately, communicative capitalism does not vanquish boredom so much as it “sublates” it, seeming to destroy it only to preserve it in a new synthesis.... We are bored even as we are fascinated, and the limitless distraction allows us to evade confronting death – even as death is closing in on us."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

PIF off

The Public Information Film - or PIF, for cognsocenti - is of course a hauntology talisman, e.g. the infamous 'Apaches', above - which I saw as a boy and which left a small scar on my mind with its grisly procession of farmyard accidents that befall over-inquisitive children (befoul, in the case of the kid who tumbles and disappears into the liquid-dung of a pigsty). One wonders how the little child-actors could have come out the other side of the filming process unscathed by trauma.

Here Robin the Fog of Bush House elegy fame does a run-through of the PIF's history and points to its unexpected revival.

He also imagines further urban-youth oriented PIFs:

  • Lethal Bizzle neglects to don gloves while handling a sparkler (that’s a firework, not street-slang for jewellery)
  • Chipmunk leaves his Chip-pan unattended while polishing his floor and then puts a rug on it.
  • Example neglects to stand still on an escalator and makes an Example of himself. (very clever, that one)
  • Wiley, attempting to return to his ‘Eski-Boy’ roots, acts irresponsibly on a frozen pond
  • Dappy from N-Dubz attempts to rescue a frisbee from a substation (with surprisingly graphic-yet-cheering results).
  • Tinchy Strider goes kite flying near a pylon, while an elderly Bernard Cribbins looks on from the tree-tops, concerned..

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You ARE A Switch

Kenneth Goldsmith on uncreative genius, recreativity, etc etc, in a piece for the New Yorker about the death of the poetic versus a boom in poetry (of a sort):

"In the past decade, writers have been culling the Internet for material, making books that are more focussed on collecting than on reading. These ways of writing—word processing, databasing, recycling, appropriating, intentionally plagiarizing, identity ciphering, and intensive programming, to name just a few—have traditionally been considered outside the scope of literary practice....

"Canadian media scholar Darren Wershler.... has been making some unexpected connections between meme culture and contemporary poetry....  Wershler calls these activities “conceptualism in the wild,” referring to the aspect of nineteen-sixties conceptual art that concerned reframing, and thereby redefining, the idea of artistic genius (think of Duchamp’s urinal). Conceptual projects of the period were generated by a kind of pre-Internet O.C.D., such as Sol LeWitt’s exhaustive photographic documentation of every object, nook, and cranny in his Manhattan loft... Today’s conceptualists in the wild make those guys look tame. It’s not uncommon to see blogs that recount someone’s every sneeze since 2007, or of a man who shoots exactly one second of video every day and strings the clips together in time-lapsed mashups... a woman who documents every morsel of food that she puts into her mouth....

But it's not just poetry without the poetic.... it's writing without a reader:

"Like much conceptual poetry, the book was designed more to ignite discussion than to actually be read....  Quality is beside the point—this type of content is about the quantity of language that surrounds us, and about how difficult it is to render meaning from such excesses. ...

"It’s not clear who, if anyone, actually reads these works

"...  the poet Tan Lin...  has said that “the best sentences should lose information at a relatively constant rate. There should be no ecstatic moments of recognition … the most boring and long-winded writings encourage a kind of effortless non-understanding, a language in which reading itself seems perfectly...  redundant.” 

A kind of undeath of poetry, a mestatising of text, or a meta-statising... a swarming glut of emptiness

"In an essay on the Poetry Foundation’s Web site called “Poetry is Dead, I Killed it,” Vanessa Place says that the poet today resembles a zombie more than an inspired bard, gathering and shovelling hoards of inert linguistic matter into programs, flipping switches, and letting it rip, producing poetry on the scale of WikiLeaks cables. Imagine the writer as a meme machine, writing works with the intention for them to ripple rapidly across networks only to evaporate just as quickly as they appeared. Imagine a poetry that is vast, instantaneous, horizontal, globally distributed, paper thin, and, ultimately, disposable"

Not just poetry without the poetic, but poetry without the Poet.... writing with the Writer evacuated as much as possible from the process and the product...