Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Willing Prisoners

For this week’s blog post I would like to talk more about, like many others have done, the screen as a prison. Instead of going into why the screen is a prison (which I think has been touched upon sufficiently, I would like to think about the idea of the viewer’s role in his own control. Having a blackberry and being a Facebook addict since 2006, I have a lot of personal experience being controlled, if you will, but also not caring. I find that many others share this sentiment in my generation, which I think is very interesting.

In his post, Kyle talked about the screen as something from which we can physically separate ourselves, but something we also constantly go back to. I fully agree with this statement since by going back to the screen, our lives are easier. E-mail is fetched for us, friend updates are given to us and we are shown what to think is important before we even think of searching for it – all of it is very addicting, but it’s also very invasive. For example, my blackberry connects all of my numbers with all of my Facebook friends who put their numbers on their profile. I personally abstain from sharing that information, but many of my friends do. It then sets their profile photos as their contact picture in my phone. Along with putting my event RSVP’s into my calendar, the device makes my life much easier. Do I care that it is looking through my Facebook? No. That’s the same answer I have when it comes to Gmail. I know it’s scanning my e-mails looking for terms to show me advertisements and news headlines tailored to my interests, but again, I don’t really care. Gmail is easy and those headlines are interesting. As Manovich states in “The Interface,” the computer is taking things, both literally and figuratively, from other forms of media (e.g. text, television and cinema) but it also takes from the human. Just as it pulls from other mediums to make our lives easier, we give it permission to “borrow… [from us to] reformulate…other media, both past and present” (p. 89) and to make our lives easier. We are the ones who are speeding up “the computerization of culture [and have been doing so] since the 1940s” (p. 85.)

From being directly controlled through cinema to a more subtle control of Facebook, blackberries and VR, we are definitely being controlled. Some are blissfully ignorant and go along thinking that they can stop using technology whenever they want to, but then there are those like myself who know that all of their status updates, photos, videos and anything else they put online are no longer their own, but now are things that anyone can see. In Kapil’s post, he talks about how control screens can free us from our every day and often mundane tasks, we love these screens for this purpose – it can control us while giving us the feeling of freedom. We love this feeling, and don’t care what we sacrifice to get it. Manovich talks about the idea of the immobile prison of the theater taking over Anne Friedberg’s idea of “a mobilized virtual gaze” (p. 107,) but now with the new mobility of current technology, we are still prisoners, but now we are willing ones. I think that Michael Wesch sums it up perfectly in his 1/31/2007 video “Web 2.0… The Machine is Us/ing Us” that “we’ll need to rethink [what we want out of and how we use] copyright, authorship, identity…governance, privacy…[and] ourselves” (4:02-4:18.)

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