Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Being 43, Technology, And The Social Construction Of Public Spaces.

I recently turned 43.  This doesn't make me wistful, but it does make me pause and reflect.  Also recently, I read a fine quote from a fine author, the late Douglas Adams.  I don't recall the quote from reading Adams way back, but given my professional, academic and personal interest in technology, it struck me as a grand one:

“I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

I reflected on this quote again as I watched the GIF below while swiping through Imgur on my iPhone (during what once might have been reading or TV time). 

video

Technology is a tool, of course.  It's hard to say it's neutral, because it's always positioned in its unique cultural and temporal context for resulting good uses and abuses.  I have to admit this GIF made me shudder.  The title of the post was 'It Begins.'  It's jarring to watch at 43, but perhaps exciting to those who are much younger and open-minded than I am.  Still, the impact of this is problematic not just for tripped pedestrians and lack of engagement with our social environment.  What does a critical mass of this behaviour do alongside self-driving cars, etc. to the lived environment, and investment in livable, human public spaces?

It had this 43 year old thinking about a classic scene from Gilliam's 'Brazil.'  All facade, literal and figurative, masking a burnt out husk of once livable, socially constructed spaces and places.  There's a lot to unpack from this, but I'll leave it there.

Gilliam's 'Brazil' - why make social space livable when amusing surface will do?





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