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The lost lure of abundance

There’s an interesting extract on pg 52-53 of Infinite Distraction, by Dominic Pettman, discussing the seductions of abundance under conditions of scarcity:

Those readers old enough to remember what it was like to live before the Internet will recall the strange phenomenon where the general noosphere seduced us by its sheer beckoning presence. Thus, we would find ourselves listening to terrible songs or talk shows on the radio in the car rather than listening to our perfectly sequenced mixtape or intriguing audiobook. Or we would end up flicking from channel to channel on the TV, preferring this cathodic wasteland to the stack of quality VHS videos that sat neglected in the corner of the living room. Such perverse behavior exhibits a profound and tenacious will-to-synchronize. Indeed, this is the source and continuing energy supply for everything we call “media” (or what Stiegler calls, following Derrida, our “grammaticization”). This crucial characteristic shapes the general desire to connect with the signals and traces of other monads, no matter how tedious or embarrassing these signals and traces may be. (Just take a look at the top ten movies, TV shows, and albums right now, for ample evidence of this claim.)

It immediately brought me back to being a seven or eight-year-old, fascinated by the Sky TV that our neighbours had, in contrast to what was now experienced as the tedium of four channels. They had Simpsons! They had Wrestling! They had endless cartoons! In reality, the abundance that gripped me so much was a profound scarcity in terms of what was produced and circulating at that time, let alone what is available to me now through the iMac and broadband connection with which I am throwing this blog post out into the world.

But it leaves me vividly recalling an earlier time, in which I was growing up within a cultural ecology profoundly different to the one I now inhabit. I remember the first time I visited an internet cafe, at a point where the idea of having the internet at home hadn’t occurred to me, being gripped by the information I could find on the computer. I used it to look up character backgrounds for Marvel comics, filling in the blanks that the comics I read had left me with. The affectivity of abundance seems interesting in retrospect: I was gripped by the possibility that gaps in my knowledge could be filled, however trivial those gaps now seem in retrospect. Has this lure of abundance now been comprehensively lost?

Categories: Digital Distraction, Personal Agency and The Reflexive Imperative Philosophy of Technology The Content Ecosystem The Intensification of Work Thinking

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