Addendum to The Tenor of Experience

Two quick links both worth reading for their applicability to my previous idea of the tenor of experience: the first, Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland ‘A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years‘. Too many points to mention them all here, but the list is deeply unsettling and perhaps suggests that our collective tenor of experience is going to continue pitch-shifting upwards into a higher register as we get further and further into the future.

Interestingly, my comments when linking this piece on Facebook were quite reflexive, both commenting on my embrace of “the radical contradictions that will be necessary in our beautiful future-topia” and noting that my linking embodied “the principles of points number 10, 17 and 37”.

Speaking of Facebook, this brings us to the second piece worth reading: an interview with the always interesting Geert Lovink. There’s a strange push-pull dynamic in much of Lovink’s interviews and writing. It’s like he’s aware of the techno-determinist discourse that so often infects new media (or Net Critique as his blog says) talk, especially from the silicon valley, tech startup types, and yet he can’t seem to resist falling into some of it’s tendencies. There’s a certain teleology in the following excerpt that I can’t help but wonder about:

…we have seen the development from to the stand-alone WordPress, and now we’re back again with the centralized, easy-to-use Tumblr platform. These things go back and forth. The next wave will be decentralized Twitter services. So what?

So what, indeed. How, as the budding Latourian social theorist that I am, can I interpret Lovink’s interview? Is he privvy to some secret of a new “decentralized twitter” version in development at TwitHQ? And even if so, how can he reasonably say what will happen when the several million users of Twitter are presented with the choice to move toward some kind of distributed twitter?

And yet Loving is as much an actor in the field as anyone else, so it’s possible his own efforts can do more work in terms of constructing the future of the net than would happen if he said nothing of the sort. But the whole network of associations is much, much larger than even the reasonably influential Lovink’s circle of influence extends, so he leaves himself open to the possibility of being mistaken about the future “decentralized Twitter”.

Then again, when he is proven “right” perhaps he stands to gain more than he would lose! If correct, his status as internet “guru” is reinforced, and always open is the possibility of having one’s earlier mistaken predictions forgotten about (or argued out of).

To return to the tenor of experience, Lovink’s interview is a kind of ambivalent, equivocating  rumination on the future of the social network – and the role of social networks in altering the tenor of experience (see Coupland’s piece and point #10 about being unable to “go back” to a state of lesser connectedness) is extremely important.

The tenor of experience is not just determined by extraordinary events, but by the shape and texture of day to day happenings. Coupland again with his point #29 – “You will have more say in how long or short you wish your life to feel”.

Time perception is very much about how you sequence your activities, how many activities you layer overtop of others, and the types of gaps, if any, you leave in between activities.

That seems like a very apt point, and one I’ve been considering ever since starting my PhD research (it’s a grain of a thought present in Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows”). Right now I’m typing this, listening to some very excellent electronica on the radio and hearing the sounds of my housemate and his girlfriend playing Bomberman in the loungeroom. And that’s before accounting for the process of thinking as an activity in itself.

Anyone interested in exploring the change of tenor that less layers of activity brings? I’m going to suggest listening to some music and doing nothing else, for starters. Close your eyes if it helps you avoid distraction (it helps me).