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Sunday
Jul042010

Doomsday Simulated

It seems that films depicting material threats to our continued existence - tsunami, large meteor, nuclear explosion - are much more horrifying than those about terror caused by technology. The T-800 is a protector in Terminator 2, the Matrix can be subverted to serve human ends and the detrimental effects of the programs on Videodrome seem so outlandish they could never be believed as real by any rational person.

Reading Neil Postman's Technopoly: The Surrender of our Culture to Technology, he offers a bold critique of "progress" as contextualized by the advance of technology and our uncritical use of it. By abandoning the deification of omnipotent creators, we instead worship at the altar of Intel, Apple and Microsoft instead. It is almost we as humans require these machines to make sense of the world when in most cases, it obfuscates and confuses many people.

Most people cannot see the "point" of Facebook. If you ask a random sample of people as to the purpose and function of Facebook, I do not believe anyone could point to an extensional or definitive answer. So many of us subscribe to Facebook uncritically much like the masses of the Middle Ages that had an unwavering and unquestioning devotion to Christ and God. Those Facebook "heretics" that refuse to open an account or deactivate it are looked at with suspicion, much like Atheists and agnostics are by Christians and other religious believers. Though it is arguable that this new digital culture has supplanted an "analog" conception of culture, its worth noting how one interprets the information given over such a medium.

For example, Facebook relishes in two-valued thinking - like and dislike - for the images, video and text that can be posted on the site. A "like" encourages others to share and provide an opinion on what is being presented. If our content cannot be "liked", we modify it to such an extent where it will fit the constraints of the medium. Likewise, we refer to Facebook as a complete abstract entity and not as a process that has no real solid form. When Facebook goes "down" we yell at Facebook itself, not the servers, nor the connection leading from it to our computers or the human staff that are responsible for them. "Facebook" in and of itself is not hilarious, malevolent or inane yet we think it to be without any further investigation.

Technology, as Postman explained, "giveth and taketh away." What exactly social media has given us is difficult to discern. But I can guarantee is that almost no one has asked as they blindly entered their name and email address as they signed up what it has subtracted from our culture as a whole and whether it's a thing to be "liked" or "disliked" in and of itself.

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