A few of summers ago I was doing some design work for a music festival organisation and by way of thanks received a fully paid-up trip to their event held in the middle of Dublin, a stone’s throw from the Liffy. It all came about through connections I’d made online and I was meeting most of them in the flesh for the first time. When this picture was snapped, I was pleasantly juiced on good times, new friendships and craft beer.
It couldn’t have happened without the magic of an internet connection and I’ve gained so much from the ‘etheric signal’ since it showed up full of promise and porn…
I latched on fast. As I picked apart and reassembled its coded heart, I remember thinking ‘here’s a tool that will help us to learn, connect, share, collaborate and make good works.’
Yes, I really did…
New dawns fade
Maybe ‘Shangri-Las’ are built to fail, but it’s no longer bad design, tacky ads and spam bots slowing our connections. As the web’s gone mainstream and disappeared into our pockets, a new fatberg’s in town and its face is human, all-to-human…
For all the news, data and connection that search engines and social media have gifted us, an ocean of handheld mirrors is reflecting us back at ourselves, the retinal truth:
we’re full of crap.
Useless crap, stupid crap, and, sometimes, vile crap… gift-wrapped in sexy space grey, delivered, wirelessly, to distracted, disaffected eyes.
I’ve started neglecting my Twitter stream of late. Not just because of the incessant outrage of the self-righteous or the rabid conspiracists with their sick fantasies. Nor even the misfiring ads that desperately sniff my hole like zombies on heat.
What rolls my eyes back into my head is the crushing mundanity of it all.
When hate and fear and algorithms become the currency that ignites imaginations you know you’ve entered dullsville, not a Twilight Zone but its vacant parody.
Bored..? Unfulfilled..? Then ride the coat-tails of second-hand rage and amplify… feel the power.
Pandora’s Box is wide open and while I never fully subscribed to techno-utopia the fact that we’re seeing ourselves, in our naked entirety, possibly for the first time, actually, gives me cause for optimism.
Better to know right..?
And on the back of systemic shift I still smell opportunity for empowerment and change amidst the crazy batshit.
The Martians are always coming.
—Philip K. Dick
It’s a completely new ball game, and there’s no ball
Things have always changed, but it’s different now. Not only is change speeding up it’s leading us down radically new and unpredictable pathways – paths so different that we place one foot in front of the other with ever-diminishing certainty.
The horizon is closing in, the future has turned and is running full pelt towards us.
Post-industrialisation, in its myriad forms, is uncomfortably rolling out and as late capitalism morphs into something unrecognisable, incorporating such ‘science-fiction’ strategies as robotics and artificial intelligence to help iron out the job market, what was once gamely, wistfully, called a ‘connection economy’ is starting to resemble a bad joke.
The dream of ‘connectivity’ is not quite dead, but in the face of continued social atomization and political polarisation we seem to be headed in the opposite direction. We need to re-think the premise or at the very least how we want to ride these weird winds of change.
But we have to talk to each other. This means showing up, rising above the noise and becoming visible as active translators (rather than regurgitators) of experience.
And in a post-truth world of disinformation, fake news, Twitter-mobs, shitposting, meme-seduction and good old fashioned history-denial we become effective translators by combining our latent powers of critical thinking and creativity with an agile mindfulness…
we become artists.
Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.
In our hyper-networked, accelerated world art isn’t just about pictures on walls. The ‘poetry’ of our times is crafted in the glitch-enabled, narrative mutations we discover at our porous boundaries—the meaning transcribed, the work completed, the change effected.
Whichever way these performatives play out, as artworks, words on a page, entrepreneurship, new technology or some form of personal transformation… in the widest sense, they represent a call to art.
In a world of crumbling veracity we push harder into the ‘untruths’ not to reveal the error of error but to create better lies, better mythologies…
Think different by asking better questions
If ‘thinking different’ means aligning with a marketing message, of any ideological persuasion, your ‘difference’ has been hijacked.
We need to own our difference.
This doesn’t mean standing alone, but understanding our complicity within the flow of (re)generated and (re)organized context. We make ‘cuts’ in the prevailing narrative by asking better questions: the weird, the perversely idiosyncratic, the unanswerable, even.
Because the yardstick ‘normal’ along with its running mate, ‘truth’, is fast retreating, and we ‘become who we are’, however momentarily, by working with the uncertainty, risk and fear that occupies the liminal space between the known and unknown.
In these accelerating and information-rich times, when Googling is frequently mistaken for thinking and the unknown for the enemy, leverage is gained from engaging with the partial darkness that lives in our souls. Most anything else is a comfortable but self-restricting feedback loop—the confirmation bias dead zone…
Our job is to dump Facebook, turn off Twitter, and lift the lid off the top of our skulls.
Does the angle between two walls have a happy ending?
The world was always weird, but now we’re catching up…
In fast-changing times we can either emerge into the light blinking, lamenting, remonstrating, or speculate like visionaries.
By thinking as if we already occupy the late 21st Century, and time travelling backwards, we bring gifts from the future…
But are we in time?