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The IRL Fetish
July 5, 2012 8:00 AM   Subscribe

The IRL Fetish "If the hardware has spread virally within physical space, the software is even more insidious. Thoughts, ideas, locations, photos, identities, friendships, memories, politics, and almost everything else are finding their way to social media. The power of “social” is not just a matter of the time we’re spending checking apps, nor is it the data that for-profit media companies are gathering; it’s also that the logic of the sites has burrowed far into our consciousness."
posted by stoneweaver (57 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
The current obsession with the analog, the vintage, and the retro has everything to do with this fetishization of the offline. The rise of the mp3 has been coupled with a resurgence in vinyl. Vintage cameras and typewriters dot the apartments of Millennials. Digital photos are cast with the soft glow, paper borders, and scratches of Instagram’s faux-vintage filters. The ease and speed of the digital photo resists itself, creating a new appreciation for slow film photography. “Decay porn” has become a thing.

I get the sense that faux-80s "chillwave" is a Thing because so many people now don't even remember a time when they didn't have the Internet. Borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties, et cetera.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:07 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Very nice piece.

Also, I'm not sure if this earns me any hipster cred, but I was turning my phone off before it became "mainstream." But now I feel like "turning off the glowing rectangle" has totally sold out, man!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:10 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please, let's not use the h-word, or "totally sold out" jokes. They're tired, worn-out, and don't meaningfully contribute to a conversation.

Thanks.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


So tired and worn out is now tired and worn out?

oohhhhhhhhhhhh.......
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:13 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


How proud of ourselves we are for fighting against the long reach of mobile and social technologies! One of our new hobbies is patting ourselves on the back by demonstrating how much we don’t go on Facebook. People boast about not having a profile. We have started to congratulate ourselves for keeping our phones in our pockets and fetishizing the offline as something more real to be nostalgic for.
Hey, Nathan Jurgenson, if you're going to be lurking on MetaFilter and then citing the behaviors of its members as part of an article, we at least deserve some credit.
posted by griphus at 8:14 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting Hiw so much of it seems to reflect Metafilter's core philosophies of " act like you enjoy being here" and " everyone here is a real person " . Augment reality, not an dualism of real/not real.
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sent from a Underwood connected to a telegraph line
posted by griphus at 8:15 AM on July 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


How proud of ourselves we are for fighting against the long reach of mobile and social technologies! One of our new hobbies is patting ourselves on the back by demonstrating how much we don’t go on Facebook. People boast about not having a profile. We have started to congratulate ourselves for keeping our phones in our pockets and fetishizing the offline as something more real to be nostalgic for.

I was doing this when it was called "Not having a TV".
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:17 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"We" are tired of being told what "we" think.
posted by thelonius at 8:19 AM on July 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Good article, takes some old ideas to a new level. The false dichotomy of offline vs online is pretty good.
posted by stbalbach at 8:19 AM on July 5, 2012


Also, I don't know the author's nationhood but a nagging, insecure, overcompensating obsession with " realness" seems like an American tic since forever.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


To paraphrase what someone here said recently, the topic of this essay is the "airplane food, what's up with that?" of our day.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 8:20 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Welcome back, 10 percenters (of humanity alive today)!
posted by DU at 8:21 AM on July 5, 2012


If I adopt an ironic pose in real life, and no one is there to digitize it, am I still a hipster?
 
posted by Herodios at 8:23 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


...overcompensating obsession with " realness" seems like an American tic since forever.

Yes, Benjamin Franklin had this tic in his younger days. Rather than make pre-arrangements to meet friends at a dinner or however that was done, he would simply walk up to five miles to someone's house, and give out his whistle. If no one was there, or someone else looked out the window, he would give his hearty wave, and walk back home.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Five years ago I spent eight months in the U.S. without a cell phone, and it was amazing to me how hard people would suddenly resist any kind of planning in their social lives because the cell phone had obviated a lot of need to plan ahead.

What I mean is, it was like pulling teeth to get my friends to commit to showing up at the bar (say) at a given time. "We'll call when we're on our way" is as close to making plans as people seemed to be able to get anymore.
posted by gauche at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting Hiw so much of it seems to reflect Metafilter's core philosophies of " act like you enjoy being here" and " everyone here is a real person "

Nice try, whelk.
posted by ersatz at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2012


The sort of article he's criticizing: "Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices. So I say, look up, look at one another."

I always wonder if the people writing these articles have no self-control and really rude friends, or what. Other people spending meat-space social time with their heads stuck in their devices is just not a problem that I see. Or rather, the times I see it is when I'm dealing with people with unrealistic work demands, whose workday never ends, or who are workaholics anyway and in the past just wouldn't have gone out/on vacation/whatever.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:05 AM on July 5, 2012


Young man yells at, comes to terms with cloud.

I wonder if he understands that "augmented reality" has been a research topic for as long as he has been alive, or that the term IRL is intentionally ironic and just as old.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:08 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


...people would suddenly resist any kind of planning in their social lives because the cell phone had obviated a lot of need to plan ahead.

Craigslist is like this now too, as well as setting up, say, playdates for kids. "The best way to reach me is to call my cell." Really? Even at 3 am? Or while you are driving? Well OK, I guess if that's what you want.

Otherwise, we could try this thing called "asynchronous communication" where we don't both have to be free at the same moment in order to exchange information. It's pretty nice.
posted by DU at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Author after author pretends to be a lone voice...

Jurgenson really captures the hypocrisy nagging me whenever I've read those "The Internet is making you less of a human being" articles. I mean I get it, and it's worth considering. But that social media would replace face-to-face interaction, or that the digital would replace 'reality', seemed too pat and too simple. And the same for going offline as a solution--if you're worried that technology's changing who we are as human beings for the worse, is going offline the only way out? Have we exhausted other alternatives?

I'm afraid the cynical part of me thinks the focus on going offline here is just because it's the most extreme juxtaposition and so the easiest to grasp and grab attention--not because it's truly what will make us better human beings. I'm still looking for that particular essay: how to be a better person while embracing technology.
posted by onwords at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I strongly disliked the article. It's target seemed to me to be people who think that social media is encroaching on life outside of social media. The article suggests that it is not, but does so in unconvincing ways.

It suggests that due to the ubiquity of social media and smart phones we have become obsessed with being offline more than ever before. It like saying that the obesity epidemic has led to people being more food conscious that ever before. Maybe but more people are fat than ever before.

We have never appreciated a solitary stroll, a camping trip, a face-to-face chat with friends, or even our boredom better than we do now. Again a sort of circular logic which I have trouble with. It's like 'wear this peg on your nose for a day and then you will really appreciate the next rose you sniff'!

Nothing has contributed more to our collective appreciation for being logged off and technologically disconnected than the very technologies of connection. Again same thing!

The ease of digital distraction has made us appreciate solitude with a new intensity. And again....

Then it goes on to slag people off for being happy to be disconnected:
But our immense self-satisfaction in disconnection is new. How proud of ourselves we are for fighting against the long reach of mobile and social technologies!

Writing Facebook doesn’t curtail the offline but depends on it. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media. in the same article as We are either jacked into the Matrix or not was a bad idea.

Let’s not pretend we are in some special, elite group with access to the pure offline, turning the real into a fetish and regarding everyone else as a little less real and a little less human. So the problem isn't the false dichotomy of offline vs online, but that some people who value time offline think they are cooler.

Our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline.. Online and offline seem to be getting equal billing in the article, that's just stupid and puts far too much value in 'the online'.


Those who mourn the loss of the offline are blind to its prominence online. Is probably the most sensible sentence in the article, but for the intended reason.
posted by therubettes at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What nonsense.

The article works until it starts to ascribe intention to offline behavior; the idea that walking on the beach is done online with "Facebook in mind" is nonsensical, and reducing the conscious choice to not participate in that kind of line with fetishization is just offensive.

My experience of being intentionally disconnected is that there are aspects to life that are only possible if you make a conscious effort to find time for them: reading, hiking, woodworking (my own example, obviously), pursuing hobbies in general, and so on. The insidiousness of the mobile network device is that we're always right there, connected to a largely asynchronous set of people; in that context, we have YouTube instead of solving a problem via experimentation and thought, Wikipedia instead of discussion and debate. We have facts, but less room to apply our own creativity and dialectic.

I don't see how wanting to shift back towards a quieter, slower pace once a week is boastful or pretentious.
posted by ellF at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


We have started to congratulate ourselves for keeping our phones in our pockets and fetishizing the offline as something more real to be nostalgic for.

How addicted to your cell phone do you have to be to actually feel resentful of people who aren't?
posted by straight at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


fetishization of the offline? Oh, good grief.
posted by jonmc at 9:23 AM on July 5, 2012


This article is a good example for why we should bother to read the whole thing. And there's lots here for us to talk about here too, which is good and fun. Personally, I absolutely hated it from the first sentence. Completely broad, uncited claims about how 'we' as a society 'are' and what 'we' do and what 'we' think about it. And it dragged on with some myths about the internet and people these days and all that. About the middle I actually thought to myself, "Is this a joke? The narrow column...I get it, it's the new McSweeney's!" I kept reading anyway, just to see if it'd inspire a good head snark to amuse myself with. But then it said something new. I liked the flip (or flop, or turn, pick your metaphor). And I was like, ugh, am I going to have to recant? My own thoughts in my own head, even? Grrrr, brain expanding, making room for new idea. Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the thing and it was great! The last paragraph—and especially the last sentence of that paragraph—being spot on. What a perfect punchline to a non-joke.

tldr; The piece starts out appalling, gets interesting and then turns out to be pretty great. imho
posted by iamkimiam at 9:35 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wikipedia instead of discussion and debate

Ugh. Yes. Seems whenever a good conversation and a debate about something starts up, with all the attendant theorising and guessing, some idiot whips out a smart phone and kills the conversation and the fun by finding the answer (usually not someone actually involved in the conversation, damn fun-killing busybodies).
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The piece starts out appalling, gets interesting and then turns out to be pretty great. imho

I think you may have that somewhat backwards. My mistake, it never got interesting.
posted by bongo_x at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2012


Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the thing and it was great! The last paragraph—and especially the last sentence of that paragraph—being spot on. What a perfect punchline to a non-joke.

"Mark with what profound fire that straw-man burns!"

It's only people who are weirdly addicted to their phones and the Internet that try to reify "real life" as a distinct alternative to the internet. Most of us understand that, yes, Facebook is a thing that is part of the real world but not the whole world, that taking pictures is a part of life, that there's a time to look at your phone and a time to put it in your pocket.
posted by straight at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


His article seems to boil down to a variation on the "don't think of a polar bear" theme. That just by the existence of Facebook, Instagram, et al., it's impossible to not think of your life without that context listing around in your brain somewhere.

I don't "fetishize real life". Facebook and the rest simply have no place in it.

And his article completely sidesteps arguments against the sheer banality of FB, etc. Facebook doesn't have to be opposed to "real life" in order to be able to call it garbage.
posted by sutt at 10:20 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Came in here looking for some Ballardian Crash/MeFi-Meetups Orgiastic Sexcapade penthouse style story.

I am disappoint.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:22 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm still looking for that particular essay: how to be a better person while embracing technology.

You can find it right here, every day, on Metafilter.
posted by chavenet at 10:25 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the article, and I like Jurgensen quite a bit as a sociologist and a writer. He's responding to a very specific set of articles that have recently been part of public discourse, with a prime example being this episode of the Diane Rehm show. People seem to be taking it personally instead of seeing it as a response to a specific mindset

And his article completely sidesteps arguments against the sheer banality of FB, etc. Facebook doesn't have to be opposed to "real life" in order to be able to call it garbage.

Another good article by Jurgensen that shows that he doesn't necessarily love Facebook, but rather is arguing that online activities are just as real as (I hate the term, but...) 'meatspace' activity, and both have consequences within the other.
posted by codacorolla at 10:41 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


>The article works until it starts to ascribe intention to offline behavior; the idea that walking on the beach is done online with "Facebook in mind" is nonsensical, and reducing the conscious choice to not participate in that kind of line with fetishization is just offensive.

I know exactly what he's talking about because I do the same thing. If you use facebook to keep up with IRL people, then your daily life does risk becoming grist for display and "online" interaction. Like he says:
Facebook doesn’t curtail the offline but depends on it. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media.
Which, I guess, is part of that creeping social performance anxiety I got on facebook, and before that on livejournal. In both cases a walk on the beach could, in fact, become social grist. I had to have something to share/show in both cases because all I was using the networks for was keeping up IRL. In both cases it ended up being a miserable chore, and in both cases it was fixed immediately when I closed my account.

Outside of those two cases, my experience is that the online extends your life beyond the offline - it adds instead of reflects (what it adds might be of dubious value, but that's another issue). Jurgenson's experience seems to be only that the online reverberates offline life, which I think is blinkered, but which is probably also the majority experience. In that light, it was interesting to hear him say:
Digital information has long been portrayed as an elsewhere, a new and different cyberspace, a tendency I have coined the term “digital dualism” to describe: the habit of viewing the online and offline as largely distinct. The common (mis)understanding is experience is zero-sum: time spent online means less spent offline
And then:
The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability. It’s not real unless it’s on Google; pics or it didn’t happen.
As though online documentation has become some kind of official catalogue of the offline, even reaffirms it as offline. Which kind of makes sense. Except instead of saying it's not real unless it's in the online catalogue, it sounds like he actually means that if it's not in the catalogue you don't get credit for it.

And he did a nice job deflating the "oh, what has happened to the real" silliness that pops up all the time, so good on him.
posted by postcommunism at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


if it's not in the catalogue you don't get credit for it

And thus the nonsense is revealed as simple narcissism, and the rest of us carry on not worrying about it.
posted by ellF at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2012


As someone who does research in virtual worlds, this piece really resonated for me, because on those occasions that I am contacted by a reporter doing some story about online environments, 9 times out of 10 they want me to speak about the supposed threat spending time online poses to people's "real lives." I like the phrase "digital dualism," both because it critiques the false dichotomizing of life spent with a particular set of digital technologies and life lived with all the many others, and because it evokes the problem with all Platonic dualisms: the idea not only that a spectrum of phenomena can be collapsed into a dyad (light/dark), but that one pole in this dichotomy is superior (light>dark).
posted by DrMew at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Five years ago I spent eight months in the U.S. without a cell phone, and it was amazing to me how hard people would suddenly resist any kind of planning in their social lives because the cell phone had obviated a lot of need to plan ahead.

What I mean is, it was like pulling teeth to get my friends to commit to showing up at the bar (say) at a given time. "We'll call when we're on our way" is as close to making plans as people seemed to be able to get anymore.


Well, yeah. This seems to be what the article is talking about. You seem to be trying to make some point about people these days being so tied up with technology that they've forgotten real interaction. But a phone is just a tool, and it seems that the person insisting everyone else change their behavior to satisfy them because they've decided not to use this tool is the one being unreasonable. Technology changes social mores.

How addicted to your cell phone do you have to be to actually feel resentful of people who aren't?

This is wrong. He's not talking about people who simply don't use their phones or other devices, he's talking about the people who proudly boast about it. That's why people are bringing up the "I don't own a TV" phrase. It was the same thing in the 90s, instead of just not having a TV or not using it much some people just had to let everyone know how great they were for not having one and how advanced and "real" that made them.

The author is spot-on about this phenomenon. I see it all the time online and it is pretty irritating, the self-congratulatory, "Oh, I don't have a phone/use Facebook/etc because I prefer to read and play outside and really live."

Jesus Christ , get over yourself, you just chose not to use a device or a social service, you didn't ascend to Buddhahood.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:55 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


So tired and worn out is now tired and worn out?

Tired: wired. Wired: tired.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:07 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


he's talking about the people who proudly boast about it. That's why people are bringing up the "I don't own a TV" phrase.

A lot of people seem to get irrationally defensive about the rare folks who brag about not having a TV or a Facebook account. Seems like it's good to be reminded that technology adoption that seems universal actually isn't.
posted by straight at 12:14 PM on July 5, 2012


A lot of people seem to get irrationally defensive about the rare folks who brag about not having a TV or a Facebook account. Seems like it's good to be reminded that technology adoption that seems universal actually isn't.

Again, you're misunderstanding. The problem isn't that some people don't own a TV/use a phone/have Facebook and HOW DARE THEY NOT USE THESE THINGS THAT I USE?!?

It's a personal choice whether to have a device or not, or whether to have an account or not. It does not make you a better or smarter person for choosing not to have or use something others use. What was grating about the "I don't own a TV" crowd is that they were using the fact that they didn't own this device as a proxy for showing how much more sophisticated and intelligent they are. Facebook seems to be the contemporary target for showing this, as I often see posts about how Facebook is for the mouth-breathing idiot masses.

I'm not sure how you're not seeing this. Even you characterize it as "bragging"; don't you think it's odd to be bragging about not using something rather than just not using it and getting with your life? No need to act like a superior dick about it.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:52 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this something I'd have to not have a cell phone to understand?
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:09 PM on July 5, 2012


"When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning" - Jean Baudrillard.

I agree with some of the qualms about the tone of the piece, but I am sympathetic to its major conclusion. If anything, the trend is towards a reversal of the direction of inflection - it's not online reproducing or documenting offline activity anymore, but instead the intentional engagement in offline activities for the purpose of framing or supplying content for online communication. Or put more broadly: the pursuit of experiences that are always already mediated before the moment of experience itself.

The online appeal of managing one's Facebook profile (or wall, or timeline) is in some ways just a perfection of a tendency that had already been on a steep ascension for some while. Reality TV, and the production of faux celebrity, already highlighted the possibility that everyone could achieve significant social status if given enough exposure, something hinted at even earlier when Warhol reversed his famous quip and suggested that "in fifteen minutes everyone will be famous." Ariel Levy notes a similar kind of phenomenon at work in the logic of "Girls Gone Wild," where the compulsion to put-oneself-on-display becomes somehow synonymous with sexual liberation and a celebration of one's self. And back in the day, Erving Goffman was already highlighting how, in contrast to beliefs in some essential human identity or personality, people labor in intensive ways to construct faces predicated on particular sets of circumstances, with some sets of circumstances influencing other strategies of "facework." I know this has been said before, but it warrants repeating: the structural difference between the reality TV confessional and the Facebook status update is pretty minor, even if the aesthetics and even content-form look dissimilar: both are asking for a reflection, post hoc, on a moment of experience for the benefit of an "imagined" audience.

The question then is really whether this reflection occurs in reality, and in perpetuity, as a post hoc attempt at summary, perhaps reworking or restructuring the memory of the experience, or perhaps interfering with it (which is the conventional wisdom from a while back and one of the major laments about these social media, particularly those eye-rolling moments when one assesses tweets like "I'm really enjoying just being in nature #ilovehiking"), or if instead the reflection at some point becomes anticipatory, which is to say that when one engages in the behavior or experience one is already imagining the future moment of reflection or sharing, and/or the reaction of one's imagined audience.

Again, this isn't something new, flowing from one's intensive commitment to "friends" on Facebook or from the weird mix of narcissism and insecurity that governs Daily Booth. This sort of pre-mediated interruption in lived experience has been noted for a while. The folks that try to see national parks from the vantage point of the most famous pictures of that park, and then find themselves slightly confused when they haven't encountered the same image given changes in the treeline. The way people comport their bodies to look like the visions of beauty put forward in cinema or television. You get the idea. And theoretically, Walter Benjamin was talking about the ways that film re-structured perception of everyday reality back in the 30s, Martin Heidegger was talking about technological enframing and its implications for changing the experience of existence throughout the middle third of the 20th century. Hell, Plato predicted the ways writing would mess with out capacity to think about things nearly two and a half millennia ago, the early Christian iconoclasts were convinced that images begat craven images almost by necessity, and thus condemned the mediation of images for their displacement of actual faith, Soren Kierkegaard predicted the rise of celebrity culture and its horrible implications for normal people back at the dawn of newspapers, and so on.

We're living now in a moment, I think, when the future anterior of our own mediation and re-presentation much more obviously influences our experience in or of the world, which makes essays like Jurgenson's more common. This is something Baudrillard wrote about extensively, and despite some of the more flippant dismissals of his work, the truth is that reading him is a lot like reading McLuhan, in that the various claims that once seemed outlandish seem increasingly to be prescient depictions of the current age. And the point he tends to make is extremely similar to Jurgenson's piece: once you're in, you're in, whether you want to be or not. The choice to experience that old-time religion of reality isn't really the same once reality has been repositioned as a product of such a vast network of mediation and representation. Most attempts to return to it are themselves mediated by a nostalgia for it, which is to say a simulation or simulacrum for it, which is why, I suppose, there's such a compulsion to announce it. I don't have a FB profile, and I'm absolutely convinced that's the right attitude, but that's a claim to value social relations by negation ("I will not devalue them with trivial social networking!"), and that act of negation isn't a choice of mine, as much as it is one of only two possible reactions to the digital and social media world in which Facebook now boasts the third largest world population size.
posted by hank_14 at 1:16 PM on July 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Remember how everyone talking on their cell phones in public places was such a big deal? REMEMBER?

Facebook is real life.

Indeed it is.

A guy I knew from Burning Man accidentally and tragically lost a testicle (no joke) in a ThunderDome incident (no joke). While going through some couples counseling, his therapist told him that "Burning Man isn't real life." His response was, of course, "I lost my testicle. I did not imagine that."
posted by mrgrimm at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability.

And yeah, I dunno. More than offline or online (for which indeed the definitions don't really make sense anymore), I think of it as "screen time" (which includes watching TV and movies) vs. full human perception land (which is hedged by other distractions such as "sex time," "work time," and "dinner with the in-laws time.")

The amount of time spent interacting with pixels on a screen is significant, imo.

It’s not real unless it’s on Google; pics or it didn’t happen.

I had some problems with the tone as well.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:45 PM on July 5, 2012


A guy I knew from Burning Man accidentally and tragically lost a testicle (no joke) in a ThunderDome incident (no joke). While going through some couples counseling, his therapist told him that "Burning Man isn't real life." His response was, of course, "I lost my testicle. I did not imagine that."

OK, I can't resist. I'm sorry if this makes me sound cruel, but I have to hear this wacky story. How does one lose a testicle in a Burning Man "ThunderDome" (whatever that is)? Are we talking about something like a "Mad Max" ThunderDome - ie, "Two men enter, one man leaves!"

(Replace "man" with "testicle" as appropriate)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:56 PM on July 5, 2012


OK, I can't resist. I'm sorry if this makes me sound cruel, but I have to hear this wacky story. How does one lose a testicle in a Burning Man "ThunderDome" (whatever that is)? Are we talking about something like a "Mad Max" ThunderDome - ie, "Two men enter, one man leaves!"

Basically, yeah. I don't know mrgrimm or his friend, but I've been to Burning Man. Burning Man is organized as a series of camps, some of which are theme cmps. One of these is the ThunderDome run by the "Death Guild", which is a Mad Max-themed group. The ThunderDome itself is a big geodesic dome made of metal that people can climb on.

Inside at night they hold "fights": two people strapped into harnesses that are suspended from the ceiling and pushed towards each other. When they meet they whack each other with padded swords or other fake "weapons". Each person also has a tether on the back so the organizers can pull them apart.

It's fairly safe in that they take precautions to prevent serious injuries and can pull the fighters apart if things get bad. You're not supposed to do things like kick each other or try to cause real harm, but it does happen.

I did it while I was there. It was a lot of fun (but extremely confusing on shrooms and drunk), and I walked out with the correct number of testicles.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:13 PM on July 5, 2012


(Replace "man" with "testicle" as appropriate)

Burning Testicle is hella corporate now.
posted by griphus at 2:25 PM on July 5, 2012


I walked out with the correct number of testicles.

Were they the same ones you walked in with?
posted by stebulus at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're living now in a moment, I think, when the future anterior of our own mediation and re-presentation much more obviously influences our experience in or of the world, which makes essays like Jurgenson's more common. This is something Baudrillard wrote about extensively, and despite some of the more flippant dismissals of his work, the truth is that reading him is a lot like reading McLuhan, in that the various claims that once seemed outlandish seem increasingly to be prescient depictions of the current age. And the point he tends to make is extremely similar to Jurgenson's piece: once you're in, you're in, whether you want to be or not. The choice to experience that old-time religion of reality isn't really the same once reality has been repositioned as a product of such a vast network of mediation and representation.

This was a good response to the article, thanks for posting it.

I feel that the 'positioned as a product' is a key idea behind this phenomenon of seeing the world as Facebook's algorithm sees the world. The action of reframing your life as a status update is also an action that makes Facebook money. It's the commodity that they trade in, and the thing that attracts eyeballs to the space next to the advertisements. You exist on Facebook (or Twitter, or anything else that fits the social networking bill) to not only observe others, but also to be observed. These vast stores of self-reported data are tempting targets not only for social scientists, but also political parties, government organizations, and large corporate entities. Really any entity which has a stake in understanding and predicting how large masses of people will react to some stimulus, like an advertising campaign, or a terrorist threat. The promise of a lifelike simulation, as imagined in films like World on a Wire, and The Thirteenth floor is coming closer to reality. What these films got wrong, however, is that you don't need to build a simulation framework populated by intelligent computer agents, but rather you can build a social networking framework, let users populate it with real data, and then harvest it as you see fit.
posted by codacorolla at 3:07 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


> While going through some couples counseling, his therapist told him that "Burning Man isn't
> real life." His response was, of course, "I lost my testicle. I did not imagine that."

The first guy to lose one on FB, that will merit an fpp.
posted by jfuller at 3:31 PM on July 5, 2012


There was an interesting discussion of a similar idea on CBC's Spark last week. They framed it as The Cost of Opting Out of participating in various technologies.
posted by sneebler at 3:33 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always disliked that online and real life were the two terms people used; I've used online and offline so long because I had a deep-seated feeling that the two weren't somehow different entities, but were one, continuous whole within which I was a single person. I also think what we will later do with information is a central part of how we view that information. When I mail a picture to a friend to taunt him for being in a snowy, horrid place while I'm in sunshine, that is an asymetrical and online activity - however it's informed by my offline connection with him and how I want him to be part of my life and the mores we've built up with each other for what is mutually amusing. It also changes how I see the beach - the beach is no longer just "quiet place I walk along" but "quiet place I walk along used as a taunt for friend" and I bring him into my surroundings even while i share my surroundings with him.

I think this is what the author is referencing about the online life affecting our offline actions; we add meaning to what we do offline based on how it will be used online both in isolation (like a blog or tumblr) and in relationship (sharing on Facebook or to a telephone number).
posted by Deoridhe at 4:05 PM on July 5, 2012


The fact that people consider offline versus online activity something to brag about in the first place is certainly a troubling symptom of society. Still, I'm all for throwing a false dichotomy aside and discussing the degree to which your behavior includes use of the Internet, but this alone won't stop prejudices from developing.

My problem with this article is that it treats Facebook, Twitter, etc. as permanent and necessary fixtures in society without acknowledging the business-like nature of it. I can connect with friends and family offline just fine, but when I do the same thing on a service like Facebook, my personal and sentimental actions automatically line some tycoon's pockets and I've immediately lost the rights to that intellectual property should the situation arise. Facebook and Twitter and the like can do great things to connect our world, but they're still companies that provide a service. In many respects, we're navigating uncharted waters that are wider and deeper than ever before.

Regarding this thoughtful post, I'll just agree that several preexisting social issues and human nature are snowballing with technological progress. People aren't just storing and sharing memories through photographs and scrapbooking; they're unloading emotion and cognition through increasingly infinite outlets. Combine that with a reward system that replaces The American Dream™ with 15 minutes of fame and we have quite the problem.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 10:16 PM on July 5, 2012


Very USian. We live in a privileged society where we can debate about online/offline. For many in the world online is only safe space.
posted by k8t at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2012


I did it while I was there. It was a lot of fun (but extremely confusing on shrooms and drunk), and I walked out with the correct number of testicles.

It was a freak accident. Well, not that freak since you are flying toward another person at possibly high speeds.

Knee or other body part to the groin and then, much more importantly, I think, an inadequate response to the injury (i.e. some sort of infection).

It's fairly safe in that they take precautions to prevent serious injuries and can pull the fighters apart if things get bad. You're not supposed to do things like kick each other or try to cause real harm, but it does happen.

Yes, most of them time for all the (quite wonderful) theatrics, the main action of the "fights" is surprisingly pedestrian.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2012


also

I walked out with the correct number of testicles.

needs a NOT-NORMATIVE-TESTICLIST tag.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:52 AM on July 9, 2012


Your wish is my command. That's going to be hella confusing to some poor person down the line.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:19 AM on July 10, 2012


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