Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mark Dery on Cancer, Solipsism, Adult Diapers, TMI and More...

Mark Dery has been channeling the cultural studies zeitgeist in evocative ways for decades and I have been in rapt admiration of his work (I taught it as a graduate student in 1986 at Cornell) since Culture Jamming appeared. Needless to say, his DNA are everywhere you look in Eyegiene.

His latest take? A piece on "sharing," cancer, 'loving the panoption,' and more; a taste--with a link that follows...
The most obvious evidence of that cultural dynamic lies in those moments where the real and the virtual collide. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the totemic technologies of our times—the cellphone, the iPod, the Blackberry—are turning our psyches inside out, reversing the polarities of public and private. They make solitude portable, encapsulating the solipsistic self in a media bubble. More and more, we’re alone in public, oblivious to the world around us. Thus the ubiquitous obscenity of couples sitting together in restaurants, each gazing vacantly into the middle distance as he or she brays into a phone, or of people unashamedly texting away in the midst of social gatherings or, even more scandalously, during movies, the screen’s glow distracting everyone nearby. (A friend recently witnessed a scuffle between a compulsive texter and another moviegoer, who in a paroxysm of irritation snatched the woman’s phone from her.) Yet more dramatic evidence of the growing tension between electronic solipsism in public spaces can be found in the ever more common phenomenon of the stranger with the headset, chattering blithely about her irritable bowel as she elbows past you at the supermarket meat counter, or—even more appallingly—the cellphone conversation floating out of a bathroom stall, punctuated by the unmistakable plop of a bowel movement in progress. (Is there a surer sign that Western civilization is in its terminal stages?)

We are redrawing the boundaries of publicly acceptable behavior along medieval lines, when privacy, in the modern sense, was virtually unknown.

Do we really need more radical transparency?

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