“I spend an inordinate amount of time going from one black rectangle to the next — whether it’s a smart phone or a TV screen or a laptop — and it wasn’t the case six years ago. The way you spend a lot of your time, the way you connect with other people, the way you communicate with other people, that’s fundamentally changed in a short period of time.” Charlie Brooker, The Guardian.
I came across this image this morning in a post titled, ’23 pictures that prove that society is doomed’. This image depicts a group of students leaving senior school for the last time.
Dependence on screens has been a big topic for sometime, in sociological and theatrical circles. Check out Philip Auslander’s ‘Liveness’ which discusses both the pitfalls and victories of technology from a philosophical point of view and in relation to performance.
The online community is rife with opinions which re-instate the democratic, innovative and creative potential which smartphones and tablets can add to our lives. Charles Leadbeater is a pioneer for such a viewpoint, which is brillinantly summed up in this animation, We Think :
Whilst a lot can be said for freedom of information and accessibility –our society’s dependence on technology, and screens in particular, has become an irreversible feature in our society. Young children and babies are fascinated by the stimulating colours bursting from screens and tablets, whilst there is an argument that as a result we are less critical, and have shorter attention spans and are actually less able to think due to the saturation of information at our fingertips.
This brings me to performativity – by no means an easy topic and one which has been tackled by performance studies scholars for decades now. Put simply, performativity is concerned with the construction of identity and how we behave differently according to the context in which we’re in. Charlie Brooker neatly sums up how performativity relates to our online selves, our personal web presence and attraction to demonstrating how successful we are;
“I don’t quite understand the need to share every waking moment. I don’t understand when people tweet something like, “Just had a brilliant evening out with X, Y and Z. Good times!” I just sort of think, “What are you doing?” I sort of think: “you cant really be having a good time if you’re telling everyone about it”. To what extent are you living your life and to what extent are you performing your life to other people? Pictures on Facebook streams of people looking happy at parties, out in nightclubs… But surely if you’re having that good of a time, you’re not posing for photos?”Charlie Brooker’s series, Black Mirror, available on 4OD is a fantastic insight into our interdependence on technology and its darker sides. Particularly relevant now if you consider the recent revelations concerning privacy, spying and personal data in the PRISM system, as disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The predictions shown in the film Minority Report may not be too far from the truth…
Such thorny topics are often disseminated and examined artistically through the performance work of Blast Theory. Their approach to pervasive gaming, where they bring together gaming, performance and technology and place the audience member in a position of control, where they can define their own experience offers a fantastic case study for anyone studying spectatorship, participation, digital art and so on. What their work does, in my opinion, is bring together the online self and the real self, the self in the street, surrounded by other people rather than the online self, settled and isolated in a bedroom.
So do you think our society is doomed?