DIGITAL AMERICA

Tag: Future


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No Time Like the Present

// Posted by on 03/30/2014 (8:13 PM)

According to Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author of Present Shock, everything happens now.  So, what does that really mean?  In the first two chapters of Rushkoff’s novel, we are introduced to the meaning of “present shock”.  Rushkoff argues… Read more

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According to Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author of Present Shock, everything happens now.  So, what does that really mean?  In the first two chapters of Rushkoff’s novel, we are introduced to the meaning of “present shock”.  Rushkoff argues that individuals have lost their capacity to take in the traditional narrative because the future has become “now” and we are constantly adapting to the new and unpredictable challenges it presents.  As a result, he continues, we have developed a new relationship with time on a fundamental level.  We are so preoccupied with living in the technological now, which is always active and changing constantly, that individuals are increasingly losing their sense of direction, personal goals, and future altogether.

This idea of a widespread narrative collapse is a significant aspect in the idea of present shock.  The traditional use of linear stories to attract viewers through a sort of shared journey has been replaced with unintelligent reality programming and TV shows.  I think Rushkoff’s argument is a completely accurate one.  In my generation, individuals have lost their ability to fully absorb information through this kind of story / narrative form.  We constantly feel the urge for a change, a new piece of information, a distraction.  Although it is easy to relate this to our current and most popular social media networks, we can perhaps look at something a bit different.  Take music for instance.  Even a decade ago, the process of purchasing and listening to an album or CD was an experience in itself.  You waited for the release of this album, maybe even in line at a local music shop.  After, you might go home and listen to this album with friends or alone and listen to it from beginning to end.  When is the last time you did this? You saw a friend do this? You witnessed anyone doing this?  This imagined visual might even seem abnormal or even weird in our current world.  I believe this is why mashups were created and became so popular within the last decade.  Why would you listen to one song when can get pieces of a few of your favorites within only 2 and a half minutes?  Digital technology is responsible for this ongoing change among individuals attention span and ability to be present in a moment.  In our generation, there is a sort of tangible anxiety and impatience among us that is only perpetuated by digital technology.  Think about how many people you see daily, scrolling through their Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter every few minutes waiting, almost yearning for something to grab their attention or excite them. This never-ending digital feed has caused a lack of appreciation for quality over quantity.  In turn, it depreciates our ability to focus and separate our real lives from our digital ones.

With the creation of the Internet, it was largely assumed that individuals would have more time to themselves, not less.  People might be able to work from home, from their bed even, and complete tasks that they would normally have to go into work to take care of.  This assumption, however, was based on the idea that technology would conform to our lives when, in actuality, the exact opposite happened.  As Rushkoff suggests, human time has become the new modern commodity.  People can no longer extract themselves from our overpowering digital world—they are always at its beck and call.  Whether it is a buzz from a tweet, call, or text, the interruption of technology is a common and constant one.  In turn, face-to-face conversations and meaningful opportunities are diminishing.  These shared experiences are being replaced with the “shared” experience of being distracted by technology and our devotion to it.  This relates to Rushkoff’s coined term “Digiphrenia”: this idea that because technology allows us to be in more than one place, individuals are overwhelmed until they learn how to distinguish the difference between signal and noise information.  Again going back to this idea of quality vs. quantity, it seems as though we are starting to value quantity at an ever-increasing rate.   I found this idea of being able to live in two different worlds to be particularly interesting— not only are we able to dip into different worlds at any given time, but we are able to project a different “self” as well.  As we have previously discussed, individuals can create and advertise any sort of identity they choose to and shift worlds at any point in time.

In my opinion, technology has caused us to be increasingly absent from the real “now” in order to be present in the digital ever-exisiting one.  We are collectively sharing a moment of “not sharing” that is deemed acceptable under the guise of  technology.   In turn, individuals’ ability to be completely present, mentally and physically, in any environment or situation is becoming increasingly rare.  Rather than experiencing what is happening in the moment, we find ourselves wondering what is going on in another moments, moments somewhere else with different people.  This “present sock” syndrome is only propelling feelings of constant anxiety, impatience, and seemingly unattainable satisfaction in our world, especially among my generation.  We are letting technology dictate our lives and consume our real and valuable time in exchange for mere seconds of shallow excitement, gossip, or news.

 


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Relax.

// Posted by on 04/24/2013 (4:47 PM)

In order to start thinking about what I wanted to write for my final blog, I began to flip through the notes from our class discussions. On the first page of my spiral notebook, I’d written in big, bold… Read more

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In order to start thinking about what I wanted to write for my final blog, I began to flip through the notes from our class discussions. On the first page of my spiral notebook, I’d written in big, bold letters: “THEORY OF THE END OF HISTORY: EVERYTHING IS RE-USED AND RE-HASHED DUE TO DIGITIZATION.”

I was struck by this. I’d written it in bold because I had initially agreed with that statement. I came into this class with the notion that we, as a culture, are currently going through a “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle regarding, well, everything that we consider to be important in our lives: fashion is being recycled, old films are being re-issued in Blu-Ray and 3-D releases of movies like “The Lion King” are breaking box office records, etc. In an age where everything seems to be new and state-of-the-art, the reality is that most of the things I’m encountering in life are very, very familiar.

After finishing the Digital America course, I must say that I disagree with the notion that the digital age is signaling the end of history. In my opinion, the sheer new-ness of everything that’s going on in the world regarding digital technology is occurring at such a rapid pace that most of us yearn to go back to the old days of pen and paper, radios, and Super Nintendo. Simply put, it’s hard to adjust to these changes. Who would have thought that stock market trading would run on micro-seconds? Who would have thought that a video game like Halo 2 could bring thousands upon thousands of fans together to uncover the mysteries of the game’s lore in real-time? Who would have thought that I’d be hearing about the “Boston Bombing” through a six-second Vine video on Twitter?

When cars were first being used in the United States, there wasn’t an immediate shift from horses to automobiles. According to MotorEra.com,

“The first practical, factory-produced automobiles were little more than motorized horse carriages. A tiny one-cylinder motor under the seat drove through a chain, and you steered with a “tiller,” like a coaster wagon. Nothing to it. It was enough to be getting around a little faster than a horse could take you. And the car didn’t get tired after a few hours.”

If you look at old photos from the early-20th century, you can see streets that are lined with both horse-and-buggies and primitive automobiles. The car was such a drastic shift in the way that humans approached traveling that it took several years to fully catch on. In the face of arguably one of the most important tools that would shape suburbs, employment opportunities, transit, highways, and NASCAR, early-20th century Americans held on to their inefficient, 1-horsepower, pooping animals for mobility. Sure, this can be seen as an issue where cars hadn’t been mass-produced and made widely available yet, and Ford’s production line wasn’t being used. However, I like to think that early Americans wanted to hold onto horses in a way that allowed them to stay connected with their past. Now THAT’s nostalgia.

The internet, and 21st-century technology as a whole, is my generation’s automobile. Even though we’ve been living in the digital age for a few decades, we’re still discovering uses for technology in ways that Americans literally never thought were possible a few years ago. High-tech prosthetics. Augmented reality. Self-driving cars. Google, for goodness sakes. It’s going to take us decades in order to figure out the implications of the things we’re just now discovering. To say that the end of history is near due to the impact of digitization is like a 1900′s newspaper writing that cars were death-machines on wheels bringing every American to his or her maker. It’s going to take time for us to become adjusted to the age we’re currently living in: the Digital Age.

So let people use Instagram to create photos that look like they’re from the 1890′s. Let people fill their closets with thrifted clothes from bygone eras. Let people “unplug” from their technological lives and take an occasional walk through the park. We’re living in a fast, ever-changing world, and it’s hard to keep up. Try to hold on to your pasts and embrace what you love, but don’t fear for the future. As I like to think, “Everything will always work out in the end…and if things aren’t working out yet, then it’s not quite the end.”


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