I must confess that I stopped listening to Douglas Rushkoff’s Media Squat several months ago when it cut back on original content and started broadcasting talks from "media squatters" of the past. Not that these talks weren’t of interest, you understand, it’s just that I’ve heard most of them before and would rather hear the opinions of people living through the crisis of today.
That said, a few days ago I listened to the most recent episode of Media Squat prior to their current hiatus and Rushkoff brought up a number of thought-provoking concepts that seemed to ring true with a lot of what I’ve been thinking myself recently. Notably his comments on where technology is taking us and how there doesn’t seem to be anything new any longer - whether it’s music, film or youth culture.
I think he hits the nail on the head when he talks about the “feedback loop” explored in his excellent documentary The Merchants Of Cool (click on the link to watch it online). I mean, nothing seems to get an opportunity of coming to fruition any longer, and the present culture of being plugged into the net 24/7 - where people blog their every thought or, worse still, text pointless and uninspiring messages to their Twitter account - has given rise to a society that seems to need the approval of the collective before anything can be deemed of value (I could be more critical with my comments here, but for once I’m trying to be constructive).
I’ve been downloading and watching a lot of Northern Exposure recently and quite frankly forgot just how good a show it was. In one episode, Dr. Fleischman is invited to join an Indian tribe and expresses the opinion to Ed that perhaps humanity has outgrown tribes and that since we all now live in a global village, we all technically belong to "the one tribe". Ed nods and then says: “that’s true, but you can’t hang out with 5 billion people”.
This, I think, is a very valid point and may in fact be the main reason why I, personally, feel the need to get off the grid regularly. That by putting a heavy pack on my back and wandering off to some remote mountain bothy, with four or five crazy individuals every other weekend, brings so much value to my life. In a sense our “Bothy Council” (as we call it) is like a tribe. We all bring something to the table, sit around a fire as equals, and examine our present culture and interactions with it. At each meeting we generate something of value, something new, and something that is inherently ours. This something remains separate from the herd and gets the opportunity to grow without a global peer review. In other words, it’s our personal subculture and if humanity ever wants to inject something of value back into society then it’s going to have to learn to unplug from the collective hive.
I highly recommend that all my readers download and listen to the most recent episode of Media Squat. Rushkoff’s comment about “phantom cell phone vibrations” is something we’ve all experienced and a typical example of how our nervous system is becoming accustomed to being constantly connected to the machine.
As the KBHR Northern Exposure radio host would say: “Some food for thought here.”