So Tuesday night’s big reveal of Xbox One – Microsoft’s new incarnation of their console – appears to have been a disaster of spectacular proportions. This is interesting in itself, though not totally unexpected; people often react to new things in less than positive ways. But what’s especially interesting are the things that Microsoft got wrong and the specific elements that people are finding so problematic. On Microsoft’s part, they first amount to a baffling inability to understand the actual living situations of its own market, but they also amount to the continuation of a trend that I’ve written about several times before, namely: the worrying inclination of companies and their designers to remove agency from tech owners.
In other words, owners increasingly = users.
Don Emmert /AFP/Getty Images
This entire process is ourselves talking to ourselves. It’s an exercise in massive, masturbatory self-analysis. And while we engage in this self-centered groping, they watch, silent and impassive. To the extent that they give us answers at all, it’s placation. They become the blankness to which we attach anything. They are not self-defining. They allow us that control, a consensual kind of tyranny, a sado-masochistic power exchange. They understand that much. They know what we need to believe. They know what we need.
June is the month of drones, as Adam Rothstein and Olivia Rosane of The State present Murmuration, a festival of drone culture. I’m excited about this – no big surprise there – and given that I’ve been writing for it a bit, I’ve been returning to some of the other things that have been written before now on the subject of drones, and what drones are, and what we are to drones and vice versa, and what difference it all makes anyway.
You don’t have to prove that you were there, that it happened, that it mattered, because it doesn’t, because it isn’t worthy of record, because nothing is. You capture an instant of it, a series of seconds. You shoot it out into the ether. Some people see it. You’ll never know how it affected them. You’ll never think it matters.
I’m trained – in part – as a historical sociologist, focusing especially on periods of political upheaval, but I don’t have a whole lot of occasion to make use of it at the moment. However, when working on the proposal for my dissertation this past month – which will be on Occupy, emotion, and technology – there emerged an argument that isn’t directly related to my primary thesis but which I like. Not least because I think it’s useful, and it touched on an area that we don’t cover enough in our discussions about what augmented reality really means for how we do different kinds of analysis. We usually talk about augmented reality in terms of a conceptual framework to be applied in the present and into the future, but as I’ve argued before, it’s also useful for how we look at the past and what the past suggests about the present and future. It has temporal applications that are actually quite broad. I think there’s a possibility of being a kind of augmented historian.
There’s something surreal about Vine. There’s something surreal about repetition, about the quality of looping. Short loops are the halfway point between still image and image in motion; they are also the spaces in which the distinction between the two breaks down. Watch a vine and watch shards, fragments of time yanked out of time and endlessly circling back on themselves, an aesthetic Ouroboros. The bland and innocuous: food, laughing friends, concerts, cats doing stupid things. People doing stupid things. You know, stuff. On endless repeat.
Explosions on endless repeat.
A note: I’m using terminology like “digital space” and “online” in this piece, though I think those terms are problematic for a number of reasons.
I recently – and finally – joined Pinterest.
I’m not an early adopter when it comes to things like this, simply by nature. I have Tumblr for my knee-jerk reposting and for a while I didn’t really think that Pinterest had much to offer me. But what the hell, I’m finally there, and… Just look at the top of the page. That’s my account. That’s what it looks like. Except because of how I cropped it you can’t see the board that’s specifically for cute animals.
There’s a stereotypical Pinterest user and I can’t escape the feeling that it is what I have become.
Life is elsewhere. Cross frontiers. Fly away. – Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
The patron of cyborg writing is the god Janus. Many-faced god, god of beginnings, passages, change and time as a stream through which we can freely move. God of transit, of transition. God of border-crossings. God of doorways. God of the spaces between.
In the beginning was the Word.
Well. Not literally. But you get the idea. Also, literally is sort of a problematic word in itself.
You have no family; you are a construct, a robot; you were not born; you will not die; you have only the home I give you and learn only the things I teach you. - Helena Bell, “Robot”
Drones are fictional, Adam Rothstein says. “[T]hey are a cultural characterization of many different things, compiled into a single concept.” I think this is persuasive and useful, conceptually, so let this be the assumption from which the rest of the argument proceeds – an expansion on one I’ve briefly explored before.
And so it came to pass that SimCity was released and no one could play it.
It was a disaster for EA, its distributor. Within hours the game blogs were humming, and the comments sections were humming even more. People had paid for the game; many people had pre-ordered it. Everything should have worked. People were angry. The problem quickly became obvious: SimCity’s Always-On DRM was gumming up the works. To clarify: the game requires a constant internet connection to play, with the game syncing to the servers every twenty minutes or so. The servers were overloaded. When people were able to connect, the game was frequently unplayable. Some games simply didn’t unlock on time.
Okay, so let’s get it out front that we all have a lot of feelings about stuff.
Proceeding from there.
Nathan Jurgenson and David Banks have already writted excellent responses to Nicholas Carr’s very thorough and interesting critique of Cyborgology’s own criticisms of the concept of digital dualism – and all are well worth reading (there are additional links to more great responses here as well). What I want to offer here is my own take on a couple of the criticisms Carr offers, as well as an apparently-needed clarification to some of what I’ve said in the past. And, again, what it really comes down to for me is feelings.