I studied a book called “Feed” by M.T. Anderson twice during my undergrad work: once in a second year “Advanced Studies in Children’s Literature” course, and once in a fourth year “Econotexts” course. “Feed” is a young adult novel about a dystopic society in which every person has a chip surgically implanted in their heads. This chip then shows your brain an online, virtual feed, updating the person on news, virtual chats with friends, phone conversations, school lessons, online shopping, and it can even be pre-programmed to feed a certain dream to you while you sleep. Sorry Freud. Turns out you go out of business in the late 21st century.
The protagonist, Titus, is a 16 year old wealthy boy who lives in your every day, middle class suburb that hovers above the now over-poluted and unliveable world. Like the rest of the population, Titus’s ability to physically speak has vastly diminished thanks to the feed. When forced to physically talk with eachother, Titus, his friends, his family, and even his teachers speak in mostly slang, such as “unit”, “meg breg”, and “ohmigod”. The text itself is rich in satire, humor, and the horrors of humanity. It’s thought-proviking, heartbreaking, and fun. I unit recommend it.
As much as it’s hard to imagine connecting with people almost solely through a computer, to me it’s not that far off. I worry about my own means of articulation being diminished by how much I rely on my various devices to speak for me, to represent what I cannot or chose not to say. Where I once could pump out a 25 page research paper on James Joyce in an evening, (what? I mean over two weeks of meticulous research, writing, and editing), I now find it challenging to write more than 140 characters, as Twitter has denied the completeness of my thoughts too many times to count. I worry about how I appear online, what kind of identity I am marketing for myself, how I can really be myself in a medium that seems to distort everything and anything.
But yet I feel cheap and invalid in reaching for the “hey man, technology is going to kill us all” rationalization, that that kid in your politics class uses. You know, the guy who shows up twice to class in a semester, always making sweaping generalizations about “the evils of capitalism” while wearing a knit beanie in Jamaican flag colours and smelling vaguely of ramin noodles. Yeah, you know who you are.
Even though there are things that concern me with such succinct and erratic means of communications, I embrace that these technologies are revolutionizing our world and how we communicate our messages. I find communicators who make these mediums work for their information and themselves. It is possible. I’ve seen it. I laughed. I cried. It was better than “Cats”.
Is the medium the message, Mr. McLuhan? I’d say so.