There are now three points at which you can stream my life. This blog is one of them. My Twitter is the second. This Blip.tv channel is the third. The blog is the only reflective medium. The blip channel and the twitter channel are (roughly speaking) windows into my world – the twitter is a rough series of points through which you can draw a line. The blip channel is more or less surveillance camera theater – I do things, some of them are interesting, some of those I put online.
It didn’t occur to me that Twitter was going to integrate my online identities for me. But because it’s time-sequenced, I don’t find myself thinking about where to post things – “is this for audience X or audience Y?” – does it go on the blog, on global swadeshi, or what? These questions don’t exist: the twitter feed is associated with me because it’s a stream, not a place that I’m publishing to, if that makes sense.
What goes along with that is being a little more open about the parts of my lifestyle which aren’t universally acceptable. I’m (at times) a US defense contractor: I’ve worked for the US military on humanitarian issues, and will hopefully continue to do so. At the same time, I’m of the generation that cut their teeth staring at the stars in the harsh deserts of Nevada, listening to the massive basslines and wishing for a better future. I’m a Hindu religious teacher in an environment filled with agnostics, atheists and the odd Christian. I eat not just meat, but beef. Regularly.
Very, very few people are equally comfortable with all of that.
“What are you doing?”
“Something you probably wouldn’t approve of!”
And I just decided that, well, I wasn’t going to heavily censor my twitter feeds. Or split the video stream into four or five channels depending on audience.
This is me. This is what I do. Yes, it may be a bit weird in places, but the age where it was possible to maintain multiple largely-independent circles of friends online, or in the real world, is largely over. Radical transparency sucks as a personal philosophy, but I’m a big fan of being who you actually are and hoping that people’s ability to relate to each-other as they are, and not as socially acceptable abstractions of themselves grows as our exposure to the real lives of our friends grows.
There is a kind of fame which was a direct product of mass production in factories. The profit margins on one album which sold 1,000,000 copies were far, far higher than on 1,000 albums which sold 1,000 copies each. The same was true of newspapers – one headline, one name, universally known. Mass production and mass consciousness worked hand-in-hand to produce great leaders and similar abstractions. The real Gandhi, the real Martin Luther King, are lost to view behind their myths. Every additional detail loses a few more supporters – universal appeal is for archetypes, not human beings.
One of the things which is a product of the age of universal surveillance and record-keeping is that our heroes are going to get a lot more human. We’ll know about Gandhi’s personal flaws, about Martin Luther King’s women, about JFK and Marilyn.
In that environment – and we are in it – I think it’s OK for you to know that I went to a rave last night, and that I’m working on another DoD-funded paper on infrastructure. I think it’s OK for you to know that I taught classes at a Mayfair squat, and that I’m talking to people who’re helping build infrastructure in Afghanistan.
There’s an evolving set of 21st century manners about personal disclosure. Invererate internet public figures like Bruce Sterling are always discussing the odd details of their existences – the photostream and the blog and the quirky little details – et tu bruno? – but also seem to retain a lot of empty space around them.
I’m not really a public figure, and I’ve tended towards fairly limited daily blogging. I tend to write about ideas and things. But the 24/7 nature of the twitter feed, and the deeply revealing nature of video change things. I think we’ll see very interesting ways of handling these new classes of shared space emerging in the next year or two as the internet culture pushes towards the pervasive at one end (twitter) and the produced (video) at the other.
Pervasive means not produced. Produced means not pervasive. Editing and tweaking and sound tracks vs. raw, here and now. Of course, you can be produced-and-pervasive – good lights, good sound, live background music, the Paris Hilton model. And you can be unproduced-and-unpervasive – the “real world” before it got swamped by networked cameras. So although it’s a 2×2 grid, the real polarity is between the pervasive and the produced, between what is real, everywhere, and what is the soul-abstraction, the essence of an idea, turned into a slick cultural artifact of intentionally universal appeal.
In my own life, I’m going pervasive.