Sunday, November 13, 2011

Outdated Technologies I yearn For (AA part 2)

Look, I am just going to say it--I want an IPHONE.  I have a pressing fear that I am going to be left behind by a digital generation.   I am only 23 years old and I still have time left to adapt. I consistently find myself making the follow three arguments about technologies that I yearn for that make me sound like a prehistoric punk destined to be left behind on judgment day.

1) Downloading media from Napster:  I miss the Napster logo with the weird alien wearing headphones. I miss cursing at my dial-up connection as a bootleg .mp3 version of Puff Daddy’s Bad Boys 4 Life downloaded for countless hours.    I even miss the imminent threat of being stuck with nothing but static at the end of a long download, or ending up with an edited version of a rap song because some wise-ass up-loader named it incorrectly--but the delayed gratification made for emotions of frustration and satisfaction.  Pandora,Spotify-Bit torrents--its all a bunch of madness in my mind. 

                Before Youtube swept the nation some 10 years later, Napster was the only place to download user videos (i.e. porn, human folly, cat bloopers).  Now its easy to stream video and watch montage “still photos” to see if the video is even worth watching.  Again, back in the day all there was to go on was the brief description of the video.    
2) T9 texting is like a virtual editor: For all you trash talkers who criticize the limitations of T9, I think of it as a virtual editor of every text that I send.  It forces me to spell words correctly, discourages profanity, and eliminates acronyms from taking the place of whole sentences.  But most importantly, it makes me think about what I am sending rather than just releasing a half-witted comment.
Countless times I have grabbed my phone and tried to T9 the sequence 78779 to patronize a friend.  My phone returns “puppy”.  In that moment I am faced with two options—either use a different word, or go through the intellectually numbing process of “adding” my intended word to my T9databank. 
T9 polices my ignorance and encourages my literacy.  
3) The innocence of AOL Instant Messenger: I have a theory that by simply wearing a pair of sunglasses people can escape himself or herself and drop a certain level of inhibition.  The shades create a new perspective and an altered reality.  A reality in which they do not have to own up to what they say with direct eye contact. 
The same is true of mascots.  I once spent a week dressed as a human sized Dalmatian slanging fireworks and freedom on the side of a highway to draw in customers.  Wearing a “costume” is freeing because it creates a level of anonymity that is not otherwise achievable.   Suddenly my identity was no longer open for immediate ridicule because “I” was not the one doing the hand-jive with two American flags in my hand—it was the Dalmatian.  When the week was over I was able to re-enter reality with ease.  My screen name on AOL AIM was like being a mascot with ran-bay aviators glued to my nose.

As an awkward overweight 12 year old, I did not have the capacity or the confidence to present myself in an appealing way but AIM kind of changed all that.  It allowed me to “customize” my appearance in a way that could not be done in reality.  I would run home everyday after school so that I could “sign on” and starting trolling the digital airwaves for an infinite amount of social possibility.   Under the guise of my screen name Carousel 182 182 I talked to girls with ferocious whit, collected and compared buddy lists like trading cards, and obsessed over finding the perfect song lyric that personified the preteen plight to use as my “away message” (the original status update). 

As a 12-year old, a typical Friday involved having a couple of friends sleepover and going on AIM to drum up some entertainment.  Our objective was animalistic and simply--to get girls to say provocative things.  If there were not anyone online worth talking to, we would create a new screen name and impersonate someone else.  Yes, in today’s hypersensitive world we were committing a combination of identity theft and cyber bullying but I’ll rationalize it by saying AIM was innocent.  We were innocent.   We were simply experimenting with the Internet and how it affected our identities.  We had no idea what we were getting into. 

It is hard to remember but the Internet and AIM were still a huge novelty 10 years ago.  The Internet supplemented our lives but it was not our lives.  What is unique about AIM is the clarifying adjective “screen” in screen name.  Screen acknowledges what was said and done under that digital persona was almost “surreal” or on a stage.  An identifiable reality still existed in absence of the Internet, but now Facebook has taken it to an extreme.  The line between a “real” identity and a “digital” identity are now blurred.

My Facebook screen name is my NAME whereas AIM was just my favorite band.  What was said on AIM was contrived and phony but we knew it because “Matt Baumann” was not saying these things, Carosouel 182 182 was.  Today, the way we present ourselves on Facebook is approached with less suspicion and its almost considered fact because social connectivity has lost its anonymity.  Everything that is said and done on the digital airwaves is categorized and chronicled under our names.  In a way, we have all become firework-selling- Dalmatian-mascots, except we cannot take the head off to re-enter reality anymore because a new reality has been created.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Analog Apocalypse (Part 1)

Steve Jobs is to Jesus as Bono is to Peter.  Keep it moving Bono, in the name of love.

The analog apocalypse is here. I keep having this dream where Steve Jobs is actually this millenniums Jesus Christ figure. In the dream Jobs pulls out his IPhone from heaven and sends out a video text only to Iphone owners. He tells them that a new world is in order and those who believe in the devices that he has created have been chosen to represent the future of the human race. His demands of the masses are simple, "loot all the modern digital devices you can and meet me in Times Square". 
Over the next six hours IPhone owners begin to pillage the earth until it is washed clean of all modern digital devices and then begin to storm the city of New York. The crowd becomes progressively dense as the Iphone owners wait for Jobs with great anticipation. 
"Look! It’s Him," shouts a pompous IPhone owner as the crowd looks up to the sky to see Jobs in the flesh.
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 Jobs descends from the sky wearing his finest black silk turtleneck, designer jeans, and a pair of heaven-white Adidas all-stars. His body is kept afloat by a hovering, gold plated IPad that stores a list of names of those who will be joining him in the new world. Without hesitation and in a near simultaneous fashion, the Apple brand identifiers utilize the "Flashlight" app on their phones to illuminate the darkened sky as Jobs cuts through the horizon on his golden Ipad before landing on the mound of digital devices. 
Jobs delivers a brief manifesto about his vision for a new world that is based on social connectivity, pure entertainment, and the future of technology. He states that his efforts have gone unnoticed on earth by those who have ignored his digital movement. At this point he sets a blaze to the mountain of digital devices he has perched himself on and turns his golden IPad into a fleet of IPad hovercrafts. He announces, "MacHeads--the digital rapture is here and you have been saved. Join me in the new world". With Jobs leading the way the crowd members jump on their newly issued hovercrafts that are powered by the heat of the souls trapped inside the analog hell on earth and ascend back into the sky. 
Me and the other people left behind are forced to live in a world free of apple products and the digital infrastructure that Jobs created during his life. The analog reality is bleak. Our reality is reduced to buying music from the Microsoft Zune market place (Joan Osbourne's "what if god was one of us becomes the number 1 song in the country in matter of days) , printing out map quest directions, and trolling AOL instant messenger looking for social get togethers--literally hell on earth. 
Then I wake up from my dream soaked in a pool of manic sweat. I turn over and look at my Samsung flip phone (circa 2005) and feel a sharp pain of emptiness. Then the tag line from the popular Iphone advertisement, that stars no actual people but just the device itself, begins to play in my head. "If you don't have an IPhone...then, well, you don't have an IPhone".