In response to Nick Bilton’s resolution to schedule some “unplugged” time and program some “daydreaming” into his daily life, Nicholas Carr has coinedthe phrase “the industrialization of the ineffable.” I’m pretty sympathetic to Carr’s complaint here (and in his previous post) and to the idea that the technological capture of larger and larger swaths of everyday life is eradicating the space in which our experience can feel genuine to ourselves. What we process as “genuine” seems to depend on what is socially structured as “spontaneous,” which may be the currently most salient version of what defines the authentic.
With the 18th century sensibility cult, this manifested in part in the paradoxical procedure of consuming novels (an early mass-produced, mass-distributed good) in such a way as to experience “spontaneous” emotional reactions. If the book made you cry, you proved to yourself that you had an emotional core that was untouched by the rising shopkeeperization of everyday life, while at the same time you got to partake in the novel experience of reified novelty, of keeping up to date through exposing oneself to material things (as opposed to, say, local gossip). Hence it was a kind of programmed spontaneity, a industrialized ineffability. But the novelty of vicarious participation in emotional life always contained within it a critique of itself, a hope that each specific instance of it was an exception to a general rule of how false the whole process was.
Something similar seems to be happening with social media, which inspire a similar ambivalence. It is an exciting arena in which to perform for social recognition, but it bears with it a sense of self-alienation and phoniness, a surrender of the true self in the eagerness to share it. So there are efforts to participate in social media in ways that repudiate it (blogging about not blogging; tweeting about how we have to stop tweeting so much, etc.) […] The pretense is that there can be nothing deliberate about the emotional life, that it consists of pure reaction or else it is a sign that we are being manipulated, controlled by cultural industries or by the tech companies trying to subsume our identity and program it for their purposes. If we unplug from the internet, we will once again have real emotions, not convenient or marketable or marketed ones.
Can we really unplug? The illusion of Internet Freedom
Artie Vierkant interviewed at Rhizome
“All of this does stem a bit from, yes, feeling that for the most part installation photographs very accurately represent what a physical sculpture looks like. When I see documentation of works before I visit the exhibition, usually the act of visiting does little more than produce a sense of deja vu. Even if not, install photos are usually an idealized version of the pieces that make them look closer to how the artist intended them to look.
The problem with this is that, really, it’s so much easier and for the most part makes so much more sense now to just Photoshop or 3D-sculpt how you want your work to look rather than ever printing it or painting it or assembling it. That was part of the impetus behind Image Objects as well. If I’m going to be making a physical object that will be seen 99% of the time through another image I felt there should be something unique about both types of experiences. Otherwise, why have the physical object at all?”