The argument I am about to make most closely resembles the heart of what Cyborg Anthropology studies. I will probably never describe anything in the way I am about to describe it, because I tend to stay somewhat neutral and non-grotesque. The following ought to be pointed out, and two arguments are needed in order to make it.
The first argument is an analogy for how we exist now. We are Pod Creatures, surviving on PodTech (distance technologies). This did not start with the iPod, but rather very early on. It began at precisely the moment in which we began to cellularize into mobile creatures. The vehicle separated people into cells, moving them forward as singular bodies trapped in claustrophobic machines.
It didn’t used to be so lonely in vehicles. They once were more of a family ordeal. They moved slowly, and travelled less often. The regularly encountered new places and interesting roadside narratives.
The Nuclear Family
The family has broken up since America began. Instead of living with mothers and fathers, or even welcoming grandmothers into our houses — we send the elderly to the city limits to live alone (out of sight), and both parents work, commuting great distances after dropping of offspring at school. The powerful capabilities of the vehicle allowed living spaces to be built further and further away from connections to people, and increasingly long commutes begin to press the body into more isolated positions, the body cried out for something to counteract this empty, lonely space.
The addition of satellite radio and heaters and cupholders and deluxe items make the vehicle like a moving home. Drive-up windows allow a human to stay in one place while receiving food. In this way, the vehicle becomes like a womb.
But the computer can transport a human many places without leaving their position. Their dashboard becomes the equivalent of a vehicle, and they get encased in a technosocial womb, but this womb does no surround us wherever we are.
The idea of a womb is that we can have it everywhere — and the thing that most resembles this is the mobile phone. It gives access to a community with the press of a button. It brings the far near. It can give us data about where we are at all times. And it is light enough to carry with us everywhere.
But what kind of technologies will allow us to be always on? The technosocial womb that makes us click less and sort less — the kind that thinks more for us and collapses like action into condensed action groups?
I know what it is going to look like — this series of feeds in 140, 155, 160, 150 character strings. Line management. 140 character updates — little briefs on the lives of others — life as an enormous news ticker with E-mail and RSS, FriendFeed and flickr. Text messages in 155 characters on cell phones. 160 character Google search results. Choices made in tiny chunks of text.
All of meaning explained in these tiny lines — large URL’s compressed into tiny bits or easier digestion. We are digesting media in a way we were never able to digest it before. It has become so fragmented that we can actually take meaning from every line and create our own longer narrative made up of so many strings and fragments. Our narrative is no longer in one piece, stuck into a book and static, but our narrative is cocreated by how we interact, and we read those interactions in text online, where we read the story of our own character progression —- line by line by line.
We are living text.