Any new technology enhances, retrieves, reverses and obsolesces all that came before it
by Barry Taylor, PhD
I have been thinking a fair bit about this fascination that there seems to be with the idea of post-apocalypse, post-technological collapse. It’s evident in things as diverse as The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead. etc.
Now, the new JJ Abrams produced, Revolution, explores the world post-electricity. It seems to echo the on-going love/hate relationship we have with technology. On the one hand we are enraptured with what technology can accomplish and how connected it allows us to be, and what it can deliver, literally into our hands. On the other hand, we speak a lot about the downside of technology-the loss of face-to-face communing, i-pod isolation, hyper-individualized mediation, and these shows seem to be wrestling with those duelling forces at work in our lives.
There is an interesting article in Esquire magazine online about the role/s technology plays in enhancing and diminishing our lives - a worthwhile read. This is something that Marshall Mcluhan addressed with his laws of media tetrad, putting forward the view that technology, any technology, causes four major effects upon the user: it (whatever “it” is) enhances, retrieves, reverses and obsolesces. We seem to live somewhere in the tension between those dynamics, each of us being pulled by various preferences, positions, access etc.
There are often times when I would happily give up my cell-phone, but the idea of going back to a pre-electric world–one that would also herald a return to the ‘dark’ in so many other areas, is not one that I care to visit. I think we have to find our own balance with technology and its use, misuse, disuse.
Much like Hunger Games–Revolution presents a sort of frontier-survivalist mentality–both interestingly, are heavily led by females–the girl with the crossbow in the NBC ad would not look out of place at all in the HG artworks, advertising and narrative ideology–this idea of living close to the land, technology-free, surviving off of ones wits and ancient-or older, close-to-earth wisdom, holds great appeal.
We rely so much on technology–and for most of us, most of it is a mystery in terms of how it actually works–i’m still stuck on radio-waves!!! Derrida used this idea to great degree in his writing on knowledge and our relation to technology. For him, the space created between our reliance upon and ignorance of, technology, was precisley the cause of a revived and renewed interest in animis, magic and mystery–i.e. religious belief is affected by technology relation.
And of course, all these shows draw heavily upon the American Obsession with all things apocalyptic–which continues to be expressed at the heart of much of our culturally mediated imagination. Oh, and AC/DC are still cool!