History of the Future
Rachel Taylor Graphics june2006
The working title of my proposal was the McLuhan quote “there is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening” This project arose from my feeling that despite the advances of science and technology the state of human life on earth is deteriorating rather than improving. That all this shiny new technology is, in fact leading us to a new dark age. “in spite of technical superfluency, primary assumptions underpinning social order are inconsistent” ( Latham1984) We may have the technology for great achievements, but as there is no consensus about how technology should be used, and the only widespread theocracy is that of profit, we are increasingly living in an age where wisdom has become lost in a sea of information and data. I was initially working with the phrase “church of the computer” to express how I perceived most peoples relationship with technology. It seems to me much trust is placed in machines that is blind faith, which transcends explanation and logic. It is no secret that much of the marketing of technology plays on this most notably the blatant Christian iconography of apple. I was also researching the ban on fire where I lived, to me a symbol of the over virtualization of modern life, to ban one of the 4 elements. At this time I discovered that the bible had once been burned outside St Paul‟s cathedral by the clergy, simply because it had been translated into English. I was struck by the similarity of this repression of information by a controlling theocracy,(the roman church,) to present day demonization of hackers and those involved in file sharing by big business which “is now one of the world‟s dominant religions with its own theology” (mosco2004) This led me to think that perhaps a more enlightened future is possible. It would be comforting to say that the more I researched technology, the less I found to fear but unfortunately that would be untrue. Technologies themselves are morally neutral, being machines, but human nature is reflected and exaggerated by these technologies, and any cursory glance at history shows that human nature has never been all good. Warnings have been made about the dangers of machines from the beginning of their existence yet it seems that these warnings increasingly are unheeded in the face of profitability. .Paul Virilio describes what he calls dromospheric pollution “an unnoticed phenomenon of pollution of the world‟s dimensions” He argues that by eliminating time and distance through technology man is losing much more than he gains, that life is losing its “depth of field” (Virilio1995) Dromosphere comes from the Greek to race and signifies that the technological world is now racing at a speed that humanity cannot keep pace with, which explains in part why things actually seem to be less efficient than they were prior to the computing revolution. Since the technological fears surrounding the advent of the year 2000 failed to materialise I believe people have become increasingly complacent about technology, happy to believe that they are living in a brave new world, plying their children with video games
ipods, mobile phones, and internet access, afraid to be left in the past. Our government also is increasingly pushing technology in schools, hospitals, anywhere they can. The amount of money generated from technological devices makes sure that any research that questions their brilliance receives very little press, and is immediately discredited. There also seems to be a feeling that the crest of the wave of change was reached some time ago but this is blatantly untrue. There are many deeply worrying aspects of technology, but I believe the greatest terror awaiting us is the complete blurring of the lines between virtual and real which is already very advanced in its progress. Massively multiplayer online gaming (MMOG) has since it began, just 8 years ago, already attracted 13million subscribers, many of whom now spend considerably more time in their virtual world than they do in the human world. Huge amounts of money exchange hands in the buying and selling of virtual property which creates legal problems that there is no law to deal with. Quite literally new virtual worlds have been created, whose users liken their existence within them to pioneers, frontiers men of the Wild West. But there is another way of looking at this behaviour. As Paul virilio wrote, it is “the technological re-creation of one of our most ancient myths: the myth of the double, of an elecrotroergonomic double whose presence is spectral- another way of saying a ghost or the living dead.” The most popular MMOG is notably called world of warcraft. Another frightening blur between reality and virtual worlds is occurring with the playstation culture, our society with its increasing legislation and lack of freedom means that these virtual games become ever more appealing, playing in the park with friends can constitute illegal anti-social behaviour, yet obliterating virtual enemies is encouraged by this society that holds profit at a premium. What is rarely acknowledged however is that the playing of these games, especially by the young, whose brains are not fully formed, can impair the brains impulse control functions. This winter will see the launch of new gaming technology with graphics so sophisticated that it will be hard to tell it from hi definition video. The further these lines blur between fiction and reality the more we can expect to see random acts of violence on our streets, as the living dead emerge into the real world but no longer recognise it as other than the virtual. People persist, against all evidence, in a naïve belief that the world of commerce has our best interests at heart, that these games would not be sold if they were dangerous, the fact is they are promoted for profit with little or no research done into the impact they have. “we need to examine the hidden face of new technologies, before that face reveals itself in spite of us” (virilio1995) Most science fiction has dealt with the machine becoming all powerful and therefore enslaving the human, and this would certainly seem to be true to those workers who are now monitored for productivity every second they spend in the workplace. But I believe an equal or greater threat from machines is the gradual erasure of the human. The diminishing of the spectacular variety of physical and mental human possibilities to a spectral race of button pushers who worship their machines as a lifeline, afraid to venture out for fear of the „living dead‟. We are now aware of the pressure and destruction the oil dependence of the industrial/mechanical age has wrecked upon the world. Can we truly then be blind to the dromospheric destruction to be wrecked by the digital age.
Unfortunately it seems so. There is still no major reverse in behaviour despite the clear increase in climatic change, cars and planes have not been banned, electricity usage has not been rationed, most humans seem to think that increased monitoring with more machines is some how the answer. It is time humans realised that progress sometimes means a radical change of direction.
Outcome/Intentions My intention in this project is to encourage people to contemplate the position of technology in their lives. For the most part I believe people ignore the bigger picture with technology, happy to be seduced by the easiness of it, by the attractive 24-hour virtualdistractions available to them. The bigger picture is too frightening or just too complex to bother thinking about. I am aware the topic is perhaps too huge to address in a small exhibition of this nature, and to some extent I am swimming out of my depth, but equally I feel that this fear is part of what has created the problems I am addressing. I have attempted to use some humour in my work to lighten the message, mostly by the distortion of well known poems and prayers. I think this has been successful although I expect to be misunderstood by some, my computer prayer to be taken as a blatant devotional. I hope I have achieved the right balance between fear, humour and visual seduction in my combination of text and imagery, to get my message across. I do believe the tide has begun to turn against the machine, that there is an increasing recognition that the negative effects of technology could equal the positives. My intention is to try to increase this tide. I have allowed myself to be quite free in the media I have used in this project in order to feel a level of satisfaction with it, throughout my time as a student here I have painted, used fabrics and photography, although perhaps not the mark of a modern-day graphic designer I felt it more important, more true to the work, to feel a satisfaction in the production. I feel that satisfaction in the execution of craftsmanship is one of the greatest thefts from mankind that technology has made. Luddite is still used as a word to describe a thuggish ignorance but I believe it should stand for a brave humanity, not wishing to be made obsolete, the ultimate freedom fighters. The luddites after all were simply fighting to continue their craftsmanship and avoid unemployment. I have chosen to use the device of fashion photography in my work to play on the true meaning of the word fashion, which is, â€žan element that disturbs or upsetsâ€&#x;. I think I have been successful in creating some images that are visually seductive yet disturbing. I have been told the masks of my work associate in peoples mind with the dress of Islam, although this was not my initial intention I think it is effective. I believe that much of what passes for fear of Islam and terrorism today is in fact fear of the chaos of an over virtual world, the Babel effect of the internet. If the depth of field and perspective of the world disappear then what is left but a blurred chaos.
Initially I intended to look at the computer as a belief system, a religion, although some aspects of this remain in the project, I feel that the prime focus now is the erasure of the human, the natural in favour of the electronic/mediated life. Somewhat ironically during the execution of this project I have greatly increased my computer literacy .This was intentional as I am very aware that today technology is â€œlike an umbilical cord- you cannot unplug or opt out without threatening your survival (economically or otherwise)-you are truly a captive of that system.â€? (Brown 1997) I began this project to try to make sense of my deep felt long-term mistrust of computers, the technology culture, and their effect on society. In now understanding better what is really happening and learning how to articulate this I feel better equipped to survive in the world. My research has made me confident that my intuition about this topic has a legitimate basis in the history of ideas. I also understand more clearly that it is not the machines that scare me themselves, but what humans are allowing them to become. And in understanding that the problem is essentially a human one makes it seem less insurmountable as humans can still perhaps be influenced to alter their behaviour. In the future I intend to carry on, as previously in life, attempting to make the best of whatever opportunities are available to me, I am confident that my increased education will broaden those opportunities. John Latham described artists as reflective, intuitive organisms which I think describes very well the position I take.
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