Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Hyperreal, Facebook and Zadie Smith

I am sitting in my bedroom and it has just got chilly and I'd been reading various essays on semiotics, notably the Hyperreal, which I was taken to by Zadie Smith in her essay “Generation Why?” in which she talks about mainly the film The Social Network and Facebook becoming a generation, but examining the the almost social-autism of the character of Zuckerberg (played by Eisenberg). Why did I get to this? Well, reading Zadie Smith has got me thinking on a new wavelength than I was previously, whereby her discourse is very intelligent but also charming and funny. The Hyperreal, she says, is conveyed in the way David Fincher directs, creating this compelling “real” world which isn't real at all, but to this generation it is very much real – 'it's music video stuff,' which has forgone the youthful MTV teenage generation of the 90's and has sunk deeper into a world where we are almost unable to get out of, probably like digging our own grave, and why would this be? Well, it's not real. It is fantasy. It is mixed (2 parts reality / 2 parts fantasy) and it is difficult to see the future generations with information far surpassed the wealth of knowledge and then drenched in the overpopulation of words, numbers, percentages and metaphors – a world of advertisements, buying and selling.

It's not about whether the hyper world should slow down and take a breath, buy why it should? Why should all the knowledge in the world be given up for, what? Morals and ethics? Don't be ridiculous, we're humans, ethics comes as choice. And knowledge comes as desire. Take the snake in the Biblical reference. It was desire to take the apple (or unknown “fruit”) to achieve knowledge, and now, with Facebook, we are overwhelmed with fruit of knowledge – cast out from the Garden of Eden, though still we built and learned.

I finished reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith today. I was going to write a review of some sort, but decided on these thoughts garnered by Smith and her works. White Teeth is written in a kind of archaic narrative, the likes I can only compare to the history-ridden characters of Wuthering Heights with it's huge time-scale. This “hyperfiction” I believe it is called, this style of writing that jumps from one time to another and one character's history to another is reminiscent of 21st Century life. Now I'm talking about knowledge and information; the Internet. Globalisation. Everything, the whole Earth, at my fingertips as if I am some evil genius from a James Bond film, but really I am a consumer and this is part of this generation. It's called “hyper” because it moves so quick, I am in England, then next Japan, then next Guatamala – discovering things without opening a book, without even getting up from my chair. But is this a bad thing? No. Not entirely. Knowledge is a good thing and everyone should have the right to learn. But us as humans soak up information like sponges, and so like some know-it-all kid will get it wrong, and something will go wrong.

But it's not real. How can it be? I never left the room. Really it is just a representation of the world, a picture, a shape. If they are shapes, then surely the information and knowledge must be too? It's worth thinking about that with all this information happening on and on and on all at once these days, why are we so willing to trust it straight away? It's hyperreality, it's both real and unreal, the world has become a theme park and we're paying to use it.

Like Zadie Smith says about Zuckerberg: he's too 'hyped on the idea that he’s in heaven to notice he’s in hell.'

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