Friday, April 30, 2021

Fake profiles

The Pinterest algorithm got to know me pretty quickly. I'm not sure if it knows when and where I was born but it must be narrowing it down. The app feeds me old photographs of where I grew up, some are even in the black and white of old memory. I spend time on these images. Then I get poster art from the sixties and photos of the bands I used to follow back then. Pinterest serves me up with ideas for creative projects. Card models to make with the grandchildren and, more annoyingly, it shows me a brand of slippers I quite like. So it's not exactly got a full or nuanced idea of me and my interests but its still uncanny what Pinterest learns and knows about, how it gives me more of what I like. It's an example of how the internet has captured desire at the level of immediacy. You like this it says, emphatically. And it seems to say it before you've had time to think about it. Yes, that fast, particularly with push notifications. Speed is both its power and its promise. Faster processors, faster broadband. See-it like-it quickly converts into buy-it. See-it, like-it, buy-it simply produces frictionless consumerism. No frustration, no time for a (second) thought, just get it, delivered to your doorstep. It's tempting to experiment with a counter profile, to search for things that don't (p)interest you, things that you don't like or don't want to buy, to feign interest in different places, different people, different things. If I maintained a factitious interest in say Frank Sinatra, in old Amsterdam, in pre-Raphaelite painting - whatever, how might that change my online experience? Would Pinterest get confused or think my account had been hacked? I doubt it. Would it worry about my mental health? I doubt that, too. Or would it continue to serve up the things I'm not interested in? Or worse still, might I start to get interested in what I'm not interested in? Probably, but really why would I want that? Fake profiles aren't really that interesting in the first place.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Three short pieces

One. Events pass through novelty and nowness to become history, obviously. I'm thinking of when doing things or going places one perhaps registers either to one's self or whoever you're with, that you're here. This is happening, I'm in Santiago, Singapore, Cyprus or some other place, doing this and conscious of doing it, too. And then looking back on it, that was life, that was what happened, the novelty or uniqueness flattening off, smoothing out. It settles down into the narrative of a life. Not only is it unrepeatable, after all we already knew that didn't we? but it settles down into ordinariness in a way we didn't quite expect somehow. That was what we did. We went to different places and did different things. it was all gradually absorbed like sugar into the sum total of experience. What at the time seemed remarkable or unusual gradually became part of the texture of things. There's a sort of doubling effect, events are at the same time both very special and rather ordinary. But yes, we did these things. Didn't we? Two. Variations on the blind man's cane. Husserl or Heidegger? No actually Merleau-Ponty: 'The blind man's stick has ceased to become an object for him'. The cane has become an extension of the senses. The hammer (probably Heidegger?) recedes as it becomes an everyday tool. We only realise how invisible such things have become when they go wrong, break. The cane snaps. The head falls off the hammer. We miss the nail and strike our thumb instead. So much of Pandemic experience has been like this. The head fell off the hammer of our lives. The everyday gets suspended, at least for a while. We quickly call conditions the new normal and then slowly they become normalized. So normal we stop noticing them (face masks). A different sense of the everyday arises. We get accustomed to it, slowly forgetting how things were or romanticising our memory of how they were. We lockdown. And then lockdown eases and the way things scurry back to normality is unsettling too. Our memories are short, we are quick to adapt, in fact adaptation is our strength. Three. Blind spots, literally blind spots. The bits we don't see we quickly fill in. Our reality like rickety Super-8 footage, badly spliced, jump cut, ill-matched film stock with different colour tones, sometimes out of focus, the sound out of sync. Is it really like that, reality? Yes, all of that spliced in with random bits of information and all slicked over with the gel of consciousness. Consciousness pulling it altogether, imposing pattern, predictability, superimposing meaning. Making sense out of nonsense. Stitching it together, smoothing it over always making it normal. That was life. It was what we did.