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April 22, 2014

The social anxiety

Reading Anxiety of influence: how Facebook and Twitter are reshaping the novel. It discusses both Dave Eggers' new novel The Circle, which I have not yet read, and Jennifer Egan's old novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I read back in 2013. Both deal with how people use and will use social technology. Eggers' is set in the future; Egan's spans past and future, with its future chapters chilling and incisive. I don't want to live there, but to a certain degree I already do and we all will. There's a particularly honest passage quoted about 2/3s down the Anxiety article. One character stops a face-to-face conversation so that she can continue it via text messages. To her, they are more direct and expressive. I understand that.

For no particular reason that I can recall, I had been recalling scenes from M. T. Anderson's Feed, which I read back in 2009. The Circle seems to have similar themes painting social media as golden handcuffs. And group these with Scott Westerfeld's Extras, which I read back in 2008. In that, social media, as in The Circle, becomes a shareable currency. Becomes the only currency. This is a unique anxiety that possibly didn't exist during other connection explosions. Postal. Telegraph. Wireless. Were we terrified of immediacy back then? Or is our current situation simply a higher energy state that risks so much more?

posted by sstrader at 5:07 PM in Internet , Language & Literature | permalink

May 13, 2013

A Visit from the Goon Squad; Jennifer Egan

"Older people are more resistant to . . ." She seemed to falter.

"Being bought?"

Lulu smiled. "See, that's what we call a disingenuous metaphor," she said. "DMs look like descriptions, but they're really judgments. I mean, is a person who sells oranges being bought? Is the person who repairs appliances selling out?"

"No, because what they do is up front," Alex said, aware that he was condescending. "It's out in the open."

"And, see, those metaphors--'up front' and 'out in the open'--are part of a system we call atavistic purism. AP implies the existence of an ethically perfect state,which not only doesn't exist and never existed, but it's usually used to shore up the prejudices of whoever's making the judgments."

"So," he said. "You think there's nothing inherently wrong with believing in something--or saying you do--for money?"

"'Inherently wrong,'" she said. "Gosh, that's a great example of calcified morality. I have to remember that for my old modern ethics teacher, Mr. Bastie; he collects them. Look," she said, straightening her spine and flicking her rather grave (despite the friendly antics of her face) gray eyes at Alex, "if I believe, I believe. Who are you to judge my reasons?"

"Because if your reasons are cash, that's not belief. It's bullshit."

Lulu grimaced. Another thing about her generation: no one swore. Alex had actually heard teenagers say things like "shucks" and "golly," without apparent irony. "This is something we see a lot," Lulu mused, studying Alex. "Ethical ambivalence--we call it EA--in the face of a strong marketing action."

Continue reading "A Visit from the Goon Squad; Jennifer Egan"
posted by sstrader at 9:36 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | permalink