Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From Boing Boing - Jasmina Tesanovic: Post-Internet Lament

I understood early on that the digital was ridding the world of the analog clutter of material belongings, that apps were swallowing the functions of other devices. That process was freeing me to prosper out of a global suitcase, even if it took a cruel toll on certain things I loved and cherished, such as newspapers, magazines, vinyl records, antiques, books and my happy memories of an analog world. I wanted to be free, and I wanted information to be free, and I knew that freedom, especially for a woman, was a stern and demanding state of affairs, that it always had a cost.

It’s easy for an early adapter to lament about a mainstream situation, but the mistake is thinking that history has some happy end. History is not soluble, it is one damned thing after another. No cure is permanent and there is no Silicon Valley solution to the human condition. Even science is nobody’s rational utopia, it’s an “Endless Frontier,” as Vannevar Bush remarked not long after his crash course in creating nuclear war.

So I’ve learned to trust my instincts and look for the comic relief in smart mistakes.

Recently, my smart phone misbehaved. I was on the road, between flights, between countries, working hard. I had no time to fix my phone’s obscure glitch, which was buried deep in some OS compost heap of pull-down menus.

Instead, my phone anxiety just detached, somehow. My frustration and rage drifted away from the surface of the malfunctioning phone. My technical troubles lost their grip on my psych. I was out of their loop.

Instead of drowning in the black-screen ocean of lost connectivity, I realized that I could swim. I even enjoyed it. Of course I felt a spasm of work-guilt, because I was the chattel who had let go, downed my tools, denied the unspoken command to be instantly available 24-7, and defected into the 404 world of not found, user error...

But I had also broken a bad habit. Of course the people traveling around me didn’t see this tiny act of rebellion; no, we the livestock of Big Tech are much like a some ancient feudal clan with rigid customs and superstitions engrained by centuries of dysfunction. But even feudal peasants have black sheep. The bullshit floats to the surface eventually: the nakedness of the imperial social networks comes to light.

Then I realized that many behaviors I once saw as my virtues were in doubt; they were indeed virtues once, because it took a lot of tech education, discipline and craftsmanship to learn them, but the moral context around these behaviors had changed. It was like some act of comfort — like an adult daughter pouring grandpa a nice shot of vodka — that had turned into vicious enabling behavior.

Why did I dutifully answer every entity, all the time, on all social media? Were all those bots or paid social PR really friends, inhabiting my reality, to which I wanted to be connected? Wasn’t I thoughtless applying hard-won habits of personal politeness, net etiquette, and authentic connection in situations where they no longer made any sense? And wasn’t I inflicting that same behavior on everyone else?

I needed to pay more attention to my lived experience. Especially the psychosomatic pangs, which were flinching reactions of my body to a worldless situation, a deep social woe that still lacks any proper political terminology. Some day I, or more likely somebody else, will be able to verbally package this instinctive loathing, but we’re in the early days of psychoanalysis for our current state of oppressive, feudal, digital sociality.

Whole Article - Jasmina Tesanovic: Post-Internet Lament