clear
clear
Digital Apocalypse: Who Will Survive the Rapture?
Maya de Paula Hanika, 24 May 2011

I’m at Houston and Second Ave, standing in the freezing mist and subway burps of what should be a fresh Spring day in Manhattan. The scene before me is not unfamiliar: traffic rushes downtown, diner lights blink invitingly as wafts of donuts, falafel, and knish puff from under doorways. Thirty or so people stand around shuffling their feet, each staring into their smartphones with the avid infatuation of a lover.

Relishing the warmth of my own cellphone glued securely to the inside of my palm, I’m reminded of David Carr’s recent article in the New York Times. Highlighting the unbearable technological dependency of the ‘smart’ generation, Carr noted that the digital revolution and its designer wardrobe of accessibility has actually made it fashionable to be rude. Has our boundless access to instant communication really begun to destroy our sense of human social conduct? And more importantly, are we all just waiting in an unfortunate state of mediocre anticipation, to share, or have shared with us, some minute nugget of information or passing thought?

Communication technology seeks to bring us closer together, to connect us in more subtle ways than we are able to connect physically, and to open us to new ways of visualizing and experiencing our reality. But David Carr’s concern is a frightening one: that given the chance to interact with individuals, ‘digital natives’ still opt to spend more time in the online world than in the one directly in front of them. Writes Carr: “In places all over America (theaters, sports arenas, apartments), people gather in groups only to disperse into lone pursuits between themselves and their phones.”

Many are faced with the daily battle between enjoying increased access to art, culture, and the global community via technology, and, at the same time, remaining present in their physical realities. But at times like these, when hoping for eye contact makes you feel socially needy, it seems we might be losing balance to the machines.

Back on Houston, I gaze expectantly, if not a little self-consciously, into my own shiny-faced friend. Thankfully, despite first impressions, my East Village compadres and I don’t simply share a taste for high-end handsets and Alphabet City: we are gathered to take a walking tour of the Lower East Side, a la Android. The contradictions of the digital experience have never been so present as we ramble off, married and simultaneously isolated by our personal devices. Our technological shrewdness will allow us to experience, en-masse, 30 location-based plays along the way, devised and led by The New York Neo-Futurists. The Neo-Futurists, an experimental theatre group in Manhattan, hooked up with Broadcastr, a social media platform for location-based streaming of recorded material, to augment the reality of a walking audience as they hear live-streamed mini-plays trapped into and inspired by different blocks of the neighbourhood. As we move through the streets, the GPS technology in our phones releases works that correspond to our exact location; our journey propels our experience, but the environment itself dictates where each scene is set.

This happening belongs to a new global wave of location-based projects that offer ‘intelligent’ progress in the pursuit of integrated art, and a refreshing break from the unending deluge of inane new-media trending. Over on the West coast, the birthplace of the cyberboom, innovators in San Francisco have plans to create short audio-fiction for the iPhone with a GPS triggered page-turner. And across the Atlantic, Hackney Podcast is in the process of creating Hackney Hear, which offers a sonic experience based on your coordinates within the borough.

These projects and technologies seem to be working intuitively with the essential nature of visual art and performance. Focusing on innovation rather than the replacement of traditional mechanisms, they allow us to explore the new without fear of losing what is good about the old. We may be having an individualized experience that relies on our interaction with a personal accoutrement, yet in doing so, our understanding of the world we are in becomes richer.

As we become progressively mobile our ties to the real world multiply, each one becoming looser and increasingly frail.  David Carr’s concern that technology divides us, through an ironic and almost pathological fear of being disconnected, has some truth to it—even for the cynics among us. However, these technologies can also allow us to be more intimate with art, its makers, and our collective experience. While it may seem foolish and boring to be resistant to newness or to define irreconcilable binaries, retreating into an analog world of vintage craft to avoid the digital apocalypse is certainly an attractive escape route when faced with such a confusing state of affairs.

It is perhaps easier to define ourselves against an opposition, to identify culturally with one or the other ideology. But those who continue to seek balance through mindful examination of the state of media and its role in society, along with the artists that trial relevant uses for new technologies, are the true heroes of this revolution.

Facebook Twitter Delicious Send to a friend
Categories :  Culture | Interactive | Theater | Web
Related Posts
Our Blog

Welcome to The [Un]Observed blog. We’re excited that you’re here. Within these pages you will discover the minds behind The [Un]Observed: what we find interesting, what we love, and what we are skeptical of. You’ll find interviews with people who engage with all kinds of sound in genre-bending ways, reviews of new audio work, and in-depth looks at issues raised by pieces on our main site. Above all, this is a space to explore sound—in all its elemental, sociological, and artistic manifestations.

News
7 September 2011
Issue 09

After some creative strategy brainstorming over here at HQ we have decided to take a new direction with our next issue.

Issue 09 will be the first in a continuing series of themed issues of The [Un]Observed. With this focus we aim to challenge our curatorial style, to continue to forefront the work of a growing number of artists and producers, whilst allowing The [Un]Observed to realize itself more fully as a publication.

The first issue takes the theme of Borders. We are already over the moon about the works we have lined up and can’t wait to share them with you.

7 September 2011
The [Un]Observed: Live

After the success of our last event at OHIO in March, we’re going for round two.

We’re hoping to add a performance element to the lineup, showcasing the talents of some amazing local artists, in addition to our selections from the magazine.

We are committed to maintaining our goal of clearing a space for creative thinkers and audiophiles to meet and mingle and listen. Stay tuned for details.

5 May 2011
Get Your Audio On (with food)

Francesca Panetta was in town and to celebrate, we decided we would have an audiofile party, a chance for people who love sound to geek out for the evening over delicious food. So a little over a week ago, we got together, at tart made by Philip, and talked shop with Andrew Roth, Ben Furstenberg, Aaron Ximm, Roman Mars, Amy Standen and Jeremiah Moore. We realized how fun it was and hope to have more audio parties in the future…

5 May 2011
We’re going Terrestrial…Again!

In less than two weeks, The [Un]Observed will have its debut on WGXC in New York, the radio station for the brilliant Free103point9 which presents some of the best transmission arts around. We’ll be launching our show with new work from the upcoming edition. On deck will also be the remarkable Gregory Whitehead who has been an inspiration for many on how to make great audio. Stay tuned on May 14th for The [Un]Observed on WGXC.

Supporters

The [Un]Observed | About | Subscribe | Contact | RSS