“North America’s getting soft, padrone. And the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We’re entering savage new times, and we’re going to have to be pure… and direct… and strong… if we’re gonna survive them.”
— Harlan (Played by Peter Dvorsky) in David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME.
Today is September 11, 2012… the eleventh anniversary of the attacks in New York, Arlington, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Like Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination and the Challenger disaster before them, it was a defining moment in out recent history. Just about everyone alive remembers where they were when they heard the news.
Where was I? I was at Wichita Area Technical College, in my Quark XPress class. One of the guys in the back of the room always started is morning by checking the news on the internet.
“A plane has hit the tower of the World Trade Center.” he announced.
I didn’t bat an eye. I grew up with ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, in which the narrative started with terrorists hijacking Air Force One and crashing it into Manhattan, yet that didn’t cross my mind at the time. First thing I thought was “I’m surprised that hadn’t happened before now. It’s an awfully tall building.” Even then, I was thinking it was a Piper Cub or something.
A few minutes later he announced that a second plane had hit the second tower.
Suddenly we were all at our workstations, logging into the internet news stations… CNN, ABC, NBC, BBC… anywhere we could get information. And we were stymied… not by our own IT department (who had lifted the restrictions on our department) but by the limitations of the infrastructure at the websites themselves.
The news websites were simply not prepared for the pounding that they took those first few hours. The Internet to that point had always been a novelty to the bureaus and networks. But not on that day. We needed to know what happened and NOW, and were going to all lengths to get it. Infrastructures were updated on the fly in a heroic effort to get the information to the people.
Eventually that day we were astounded by what we saw. Live updates, streaming video, and reports worldwide, as the globe mourned for our losses.
In our classrooms and labs at the tech college? We were artists, video producers and web designers… This was the first time any of us studying “New Media” really saw our own careers at work. The media was disseminating information like never before, through any means necessary. Though we were appalled at the situation, we were amazed and appreciative of the technology we were studying. It was the beginning of a whole new age. New media got pushed into the deep end, and, for better or worse, really learned to swim.
But now, after a decade in the pool, are we getting Pruney?
“Well, I think we live in overstimulated times. We crave stimulation for its own sake. We gorge ourselves on it. We always want more, whether it’s tactile, emotional or sexual… I admit it. I live in a highly excited state of overstimulation.”
— Nikki Brand (Played by Debbie Harry) in VIDEODROME
Because of the advances made on and because of that day, you are reading this blog, watching cat videos on YouTube, watching streaming movies on Netflix, vilifying presidential candidates on Facebook and are kept up to date on every news story no matter how monumental or trivial, not only from your computer, but from your cellphones, ipads and video game consoles.
We are a generation hardwired into the internet, junkies of the information age, overdosing on terabytes of data every day. Is it good? Is it socially positive? Or are we effectively dragging down our own humanity and becoming desensitized because we see everything through the filter of our LED screens?
That’s a subject for another blog. Long Live the New Flesh.