— New RSShole

Un-medium.

Picture 5

I’ve read several essays and manifestos recently on the artistic implications of Facebook.  These writings can be evocative, and are often extremely successful at garnering the cultural capital they wish to theorize.  My own thoughts on these essays are best expressed by friend and scholar Adam E. Leeds.  I’d like to quote an email I received from him:

“…I am done reading articles about how Facebook changes the world.

1. I don’t actually believe that what goes on on social networking sites is that different from what went on before them, or changes our sense of self much.

2. There are changes in society on account of them; the most important ones are the delocalization of networks and the instantaneity of mass communication — new articulations of time and space.

3. These technologies are totally in their infancy.  Facebook might not be around in ten years. We don’t even know what is the paradigm that will replace it, yet.

4. We won’t really know the cultural implications until we see the culture that the generation that grows up with whatever replaces Facebook creates.”

Total agreement.  This is not to suggest, of course, that pop culture requires being canonized before it can be effectively parsed.  There is a significant difference between technology as phenomenon and technology as medium — when writers treat cultural phenomena as media, the theory must take a different approach.  To speak of Facebook as medium, as paradigm, disallows its potential for instantaneity which, I think, is what it is actually good at.

Surely, the contemporary theoretical essay does not need to be one for the ages –that’s the mode of contemporary. But I can’t help but think how I recently read Boris Groys’s problematic essay on institutionalized video art, and how very dated it felt (it was written only 6 years ago).  To speak of these phenomena as prototypes for the future (or even prototypes for now) misses the point of technological ephemerality and presentness.  Presentness, in this instance, is not necessarily grace.  In technology, presentness is chopped, distorted, and wholly untrustworthy.  It is interesting, certainly.  But it is not implication.

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