Adbusters

The Era of Simulation

Consequences of a digital revolution.

“For the message of any medium or technology is the change in scale or pace or pattern that it intrudes into human affairs.”
—Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media

We are being shaped by the constant proliferation of digital technologies in our everyday lifestyles. The Internet may have connected the globe forever, but the developed world is now completely at its mercy. Terms and conditions apply to our autonomy. The World Wide Web has infused our society with an all-encompassing reliance on media technologies. At any given time we are staring at a screen, listening to an iPod, using GPS or holding our iPhone – the device that combines all the above functions in an intuitive and responsive little pocket tool. With this handy instrument on us at all times we are obligated to communicate and to be tuned in to entertainment and information. We are objectified as “users” not people. The products of our digital revolution run our daily routines. We are no longer free agents – technical extensions to our physical selves have become as vital as a limb or an organ.

Digital media will continue to shape us independently and as a society, by acting as a conduit of experience and by invading our real space and time. How many of us have wasted hours idly surfing the Internet or aimlessly flicking through endless TV channels?

“We are asked to follow pre-programmed, objectively existing associations.”
—Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media

This is what Jean Baudrillard called “the era of simulation,” we are being herded in preordained directions, dictated by omniscient authors. By following hyperlinks on Wikipedia, for example, we are following someone else’s premeditated path through information and jumping from one piece of subject matter to another. All too often users mistake these connections as their own and continually follow externalized thought processes, relying less and less on their natural associations. Similarly, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook externalize relationships, which has fragmented society by encouraging everyone to recede into their new portable plaything rather than sparking up conversation. The BlackBerry smartphone means that bosses never have to leave the office, while microblogging services such as Twitter mean that they can text the entire team to call an all-important emergency meeting in one fell swoop. Escape is futile. As we move from an industrial civilization into an information civilization, we’re online and we’re locked in. Try a digital detox for even just a day, I bet you will fail, I already have.

Zachary Colbert

Thank-you to everyone who participated in this year's Digital Detox Week. Send us your feedback, thoughts and epiphanies to [email protected]. Did you miss this year's detox? Have your own anytime or check out the campaign page for updates for next year.

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116 comments on the article “The Era of Simulation”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 116

Page 3 of 12

Anonymous

This is true. Objective experience is still possible though. Compose a wikipedia article Write a book or teach a lecture.

Anonymous

This is true. Objective experience is still possible though. Compose a wikipedia article Write a book or teach a lecture.

Norm

“By following hyperlinks on Wikipedia, for example, we are following someone else’s premeditated path through information and jumping from one piece of subject matter to another." I agree with the other commenter: Books and lectures also lead us down lines of thought. Infact, all communication leads us down lines of thought - and thats a good thing because it allows us to think differently about the world around us, and see relationships we aren't used to seeing.If anything, the internet offers more choice of what order information is presented, because the user charts their own path, navigating the links. Another thing: what's so objectifying about the word "user". Nothing about the word implies submission. On the contrary, if we are the users, then we are in control. It seems adbusters is more interested in pseudo intellectual rants than actually responding to advertising and consumerism (which adbusters ironically enrouages with it's flashy banner ads for black-spot sneakers and the like).

Norm

“By following hyperlinks on Wikipedia, for example, we are following someone else’s premeditated path through information and jumping from one piece of subject matter to another." I agree with the other commenter: Books and lectures also lead us down lines of thought. Infact, all communication leads us down lines of thought - and thats a good thing because it allows us to think differently about the world around us, and see relationships we aren't used to seeing.If anything, the internet offers more choice of what order information is presented, because the user charts their own path, navigating the links. Another thing: what's so objectifying about the word "user". Nothing about the word implies submission. On the contrary, if we are the users, then we are in control. It seems adbusters is more interested in pseudo intellectual rants than actually responding to advertising and consumerism (which adbusters ironically enrouages with it's flashy banner ads for black-spot sneakers and the like).

Mike

So, eventually we'll never to need to think of anything ourselves. Our fading memories of the joy of discovery will blur into passing clicks, clicks, and clicks.

Mike

So, eventually we'll never to need to think of anything ourselves. Our fading memories of the joy of discovery will blur into passing clicks, clicks, and clicks.

Anonymous

The worry about use (or overuse) of technology is nothing new. Using computers or whatever device (it started with sticks and rocks and evolved to mechanical devices and now electronic devices) should of course be used in moderation. What is moderation? The ability to control one's use of the item. We should be able to say yes or no to the use of something. Otherwise it is either a dictatorship or an addiction. The problem with addiction is that its classification relies heavily on the specific society one is in. So, for example, a farmer uses a tractor every single day for at least 5 hours. Should we be afraid that he or she might be addicted or forced into the use of a tractor? It depends. If the tractor is causing him or her some kind of ailment, such as, callouses on his hands from turning the steering wheel so many times (or whatever, I am comparing this to carpel tunnel syndrome), then the good should be weighed with the bad. Is the tractor helping more or less than the callouses? The extensive use of the tractor could very well be an indispensable tool to a farmer. The key here is that the farmer should be able to choose between a tractor and something else, according to the pros and cons of the thing. If it is simply stupid to push a hand-held hoe through a field when the farmer actually owns a tractor, then yes, the callouses from the steering wheel are worth it. They are minimal compared to the callouses of using a hand-held hoe. The same goes for digital devices. Each incident should be carefully weighed with its own pros and cons. So, if a child is playing computer games 24 hours straight and is suffering from eye problems, then the that is certainly a huge con for that particular usage of the device. However, if that child later invents the next medical social networking program that actually increases medical progress and widens the window of access to healthcare, then we will of course be grateful for their expertise with this particular tool. The only time it is a problem is when the cons outweigh the pros, such as, a device is proven to cause cancer, but the user is still forced to use it. Again, what about addiction to computers? Well, that depends on the society of computer users. A person who needs a computer to complete their job effectively is not really addicted unless it is negatively affecting their job or health. Here is an extreme example: shoes. Are we addicted to shoes? Largely, no. There are some people who cannot stop buying shoes; however, they are addicted because of something else psychological, not for the shoes themselves. Are the shoes causing pain? Well, some women's shoes really do cause alot of pain. But it is generally agreed upon that shoes are more beneficial than not. And those shoes that cause pain should not be worn. So, those computers that are causing more pain than benefit to the user, should be avoided or used less. If a computer user feels depressed and alienated because they cannot initiate facetime with friends, then they would benefit from using them less and focussing a bit more on face to face social interaction. However, in the end, the focus on the digital devices themselves is the wrong thing to focus on. Instead, we should look at the person (the government always gets this wrong: the war on drugs, the war on terror. These terms actually remove the person from the focus instead of empowering them). So, instead of telling someone they need to stop using something, we should show them things that would benefit them more. Admittedly, this is getting to be very difficult since computers are becoming very captivating with sight and sound and total immersion. But if it's the kids you are worried about, if you ask them, you'll find that they prefer to have someone who cares for them face to face. If we took the time to do activities with the kids and be their good friends and not just digital guilt-trippers (and also not just being a friend to get them to stop using computers and then drop them as soon as they agree to it) then they would definitely realize the control that they can exercise regarding their personal usage. And being a good friend means you might also spend some time at least trying to beat them at their favorite video game, as well as hiking through the Alps. In other words, the totality of the person should be addressed rather than just their digital involvement in order to make them feel cared for and empowered. Guilt-trips (as organized religion keeps blatantly proving) usually only make something look more attractive. There are tons of other ways to make someone feel like they are capable of making beneficial personal decisions for themselves.

Anonymous

The worry about use (or overuse) of technology is nothing new. Using computers or whatever device (it started with sticks and rocks and evolved to mechanical devices and now electronic devices) should of course be used in moderation. What is moderation? The ability to control one's use of the item. We should be able to say yes or no to the use of something. Otherwise it is either a dictatorship or an addiction. The problem with addiction is that its classification relies heavily on the specific society one is in. So, for example, a farmer uses a tractor every single day for at least 5 hours. Should we be afraid that he or she might be addicted or forced into the use of a tractor? It depends. If the tractor is causing him or her some kind of ailment, such as, callouses on his hands from turning the steering wheel so many times (or whatever, I am comparing this to carpel tunnel syndrome), then the good should be weighed with the bad. Is the tractor helping more or less than the callouses? The extensive use of the tractor could very well be an indispensable tool to a farmer. The key here is that the farmer should be able to choose between a tractor and something else, according to the pros and cons of the thing. If it is simply stupid to push a hand-held hoe through a field when the farmer actually owns a tractor, then yes, the callouses from the steering wheel are worth it. They are minimal compared to the callouses of using a hand-held hoe. The same goes for digital devices. Each incident should be carefully weighed with its own pros and cons. So, if a child is playing computer games 24 hours straight and is suffering from eye problems, then the that is certainly a huge con for that particular usage of the device. However, if that child later invents the next medical social networking program that actually increases medical progress and widens the window of access to healthcare, then we will of course be grateful for their expertise with this particular tool. The only time it is a problem is when the cons outweigh the pros, such as, a device is proven to cause cancer, but the user is still forced to use it. Again, what about addiction to computers? Well, that depends on the society of computer users. A person who needs a computer to complete their job effectively is not really addicted unless it is negatively affecting their job or health. Here is an extreme example: shoes. Are we addicted to shoes? Largely, no. There are some people who cannot stop buying shoes; however, they are addicted because of something else psychological, not for the shoes themselves. Are the shoes causing pain? Well, some women's shoes really do cause alot of pain. But it is generally agreed upon that shoes are more beneficial than not. And those shoes that cause pain should not be worn. So, those computers that are causing more pain than benefit to the user, should be avoided or used less. If a computer user feels depressed and alienated because they cannot initiate facetime with friends, then they would benefit from using them less and focussing a bit more on face to face social interaction. However, in the end, the focus on the digital devices themselves is the wrong thing to focus on. Instead, we should look at the person (the government always gets this wrong: the war on drugs, the war on terror. These terms actually remove the person from the focus instead of empowering them). So, instead of telling someone they need to stop using something, we should show them things that would benefit them more. Admittedly, this is getting to be very difficult since computers are becoming very captivating with sight and sound and total immersion. But if it's the kids you are worried about, if you ask them, you'll find that they prefer to have someone who cares for them face to face. If we took the time to do activities with the kids and be their good friends and not just digital guilt-trippers (and also not just being a friend to get them to stop using computers and then drop them as soon as they agree to it) then they would definitely realize the control that they can exercise regarding their personal usage. And being a good friend means you might also spend some time at least trying to beat them at their favorite video game, as well as hiking through the Alps. In other words, the totality of the person should be addressed rather than just their digital involvement in order to make them feel cared for and empowered. Guilt-trips (as organized religion keeps blatantly proving) usually only make something look more attractive. There are tons of other ways to make someone feel like they are capable of making beneficial personal decisions for themselves.

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