A little something I wrote last night when I couldn’t fall asleep. I think it might be interesting to some of you.
Does anyone remember the movie videodrome? If you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do. It’s an old movie but it still rides on the bleeding edge of the prophetic. The phrase ‘Death to the videodrome, long live the new flesh!’ will ring in your mind for a long time after you finish watching it. I believe I can still see the phrase being repeated in many places throughout the net and other media.
The prophetic vision of the betamax era movie had come and pass, but the poignant insight into the fundamental relationship between a mass-media society and humanity still rings true today, and it might still tell us many things when we view the lessons in the context of the abundance of mobile mass-storage media player such as the ipod.
Unlike some people out there, I do not view the popularity of the ipod as the popularity of the apple. The way I see it, ipod is the modern vellum that are capable of storing pages after pages of ‘moving information’ and ‘audible information’ in form of music and movies. The popularity of the ipod is in fact the popularity of a notion of being able to create a localized collection of information/media that connects us to not the physical network of electricity, but the emergent network of the cultural zeitgeist wherever we go. Even in the times of actual vellum information, the truth of the matter being written about was never the focus of the author/creator’s mind. There are numerous examples of medieval vellum codex beginning as something as innocuous as a collection of prayer texts or certain dispositions on the bible, or even a collection of herbal remedies, that gradually turns into a wild text concerning the supernatural, the arts, the philosophies and etc., anything and everything within the zeitgeist of the era capable of reflecting the thought of the author/creator of the codex. The fact is, a long collection of any media, text or music or herbal remedy, requires heavy choosing on the side of the creator. No matter how hard the author tries to keep things in objective light, the ‘objective’ facts being written on the pages are chosen among millions and millions of ‘objective truths’ out there in the sea of information (and yes. I do believe that some form of the sea of information existed at all stages of human history, far before the advent of electronic networks). The ending result must inevitably reflect the state of the author as well as the signs of the times, gradually turning the most mundane collection into something profound and fantastic (the Codex Gigas probably had a very humble beginning, but it’s now surrounded by legends of demonic deals of the monk who wrote it. Who’s to say that something like that can’t be true of some of our ipods a century later?), a little graffiti drawn at the corner of the world that turns the whole scene around (I just love the graffiti analogy. Maybe I’ll do a full post on this later).
The success of the ipod is, in fact, the success of such mindset. The success of web logging and podcasts are not in that they act as easy gateway to reach out to others (although it is a fundamental and integral part of the medium), but in that they might build up within the cultural zeitgeist (think penny-arcade. Those guys would never have drawn/written so much and so well within isolation, but it would be shallow to think that they began drawing and writing simply to show it to others) and have a connection with the sea of information at a very instinctive, almost Jungian way. As it was metaphorically suggested in the movie videodrome, this movement of human civilization goes beyond the physical brute-force way of ‘uploading’ a mind onto other medium (as is frequently depicted in pulp fictions). It is about the something within the basic fabric of human psyche that can only be fulfilled through meaningful activity that allows one to connect with a sense of humanity at a collective level, the something that dreads meaningless activities and drives people to despair or unreasonable act in defense of something one might consider meaningful. The collection of movies and songs within ipod gradually grows to encompass the footprint of the collector’s mind, and the pod itself, through sound and vision, recreates a strange world for the collector to immerse him/herself in at any moment, anywhere.
Where do we go on from here? If the appeal of the ‘ipod concept’ was about being able to immerse oneself in a world through a cascading medium, what would be the natural progression?