Another thought-provoking post from Joanne McNeil of Tomorrow Museum sees her musing on the way Twitter, the 24-hour news cycle and citizen journalism have escalated the death of minor celebrities to the status of the fashionable small-talk of the digerati:
Every day on Twitter, news of another death. Les Paul, John Hughes, Farrah Fawcett, those big names, but also the editor at this publication, the founder of this startup, the people who we might not all know, but someone you know knew them and they are using the space to remember them.
Sure, Maria Shriver’s euology made me sit up straighter and think I want to be like that. But, I mean, was I supposed to be shocked that Eunice Kennedy passed on? I guess it’s small talk of a darker sort. You could talk about the weather or whose heart stopped.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to sign on Twitter, precisely for that reason. What if David Cronenberg died? Or Bill Callahan? Sophia Coppola, Rachel Maddow, Tilda Swinton, anyone I like.
I still think the web has the capacity to bring out the best and the worst in us. We’re going to look back at the spectacle of Jade Goody’s wedding earlier this year and think how innocent it was, how damn near respectful people were to her and her family. It’s all downhill from here. Death is just something you think about until the next 140 character tweet appears.
I don’t think it’s going to get all that much worse – and if it does, we won’t be appalled by it, because the frog will be boiled slowly – but I’ve long been fascinated by the visceral sense of Zeitgeist that working all day on the web has given me, and there’s definitely a change in my attitudes to different sorts of news. (That said, my complete disinterest in manufactured minor celebrities remains strong, which I’m quite pleased about.)
It’s almost as if dying is the best way to get the whole world to take notice of you these days. But how much harder is it to disappear from view completely? In another of Wired’s more interesting journalistic projects of late, they’re sending off Evan Ratliff with instructions to drop “off the grid” for thirty days, and offering a prize of $5,000 to anyone who finds him using the publically available data trail that he’ll generate. I’ll not be surprised if someone snags him pretty quick (unless he has some sort of ace in the hole for staying incognito), but the story promises to be interesting whatever the outcome, especially in light of other recent disappearances, successful, deliberate or otherwise.
There’s an older guy who drinks in the same pub as a number of people in my social circle. He’s well known for his, er, colourful and lively opinions, which tend to emerge incoherently at the end of the evening to the great amusement of everyone else. This unintentionally hilarious character is immortalised and discussed in a Facebook group, where the occasional picture or transcribed rant will be posted, and notable encounters good-naturedly reminisced upon.
I probably shouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that this phenomenon is far from unique; the exponential splurge of social media has created maybe hundreds of these minor geo-locative celebrities. Most of them, we can assume, are people who do not use the web themselves, and who remain unaware that they are the subject of scrutiny and discussion and (in some cases) a kind of hero-worship.
But is this a form of exploitation? Are we unwittingly mocking someone who is less connected to modern media than ourselves, or simply performing an enhanced version of the urban legend-telling that is probably as old as urban life itself?
And as the number of non-users decreases, will the perceived celebrity of those still not connected to the web increase as a function of their rarity? Will every town have a digital shrine to the last person without broadband?
February’s story is now available; Chris Nakashima-Brown spins us a near-future post-mediapocalyptic mind-bender about celebrity, freedom, America and meaning in “R.P.M.”.
by Chris Nakashima-Brown
The 1994 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS hurtles south down Cahuenga after midnight, jury-rigged engine exhaling the throaty rasp of an emphysemic Olympian. Urban interceptor, an abandoned rental reclaimed as instrument of revolution.
Or at least that’s what 0z0 said the night before as he drilled holes in the muffler to amplify the effect.
“We’re gonna free the monster,” he smiled, lighting the welding torch. Continue reading R.P.M. by Chris Nakashima-Brown
“The Jiminy Device” from Lisa Mantchev is a delightfully snarky satire of celebrity taken to its logical (and entourage-encrusted) extreme.
[ IMPORTANT NOTICE: This story is NOT covered by the Creative Commons License that covers the majority of content on Futurismic; copyright remains with the author, and any redistribution is a breach thereof. Thanks. ]
The Jiminy Device
by Lisa Mantchev
“What do you mean you’re leaving?”
Shock and disbelief clouded London’s brow (despite the neurotoxin injections) as she stared at her lover. Marcel only shrugged. When one of his people scribbled a note and handed it to him, he read it cold.
“We’re drifting apart. It’s not you, it’s me.” He took the cigarette out of his mouth and glared at the hapless scriptwriter. She withered visibly behind her cheap haircut. “This is what I pay you for?” He shook his head and his stylist adjusted the tousled locks with a comb.
London sniffed, trying to muster some tears. Her special effects guy produced a squirt bottle of saline when she couldn’t quite manage it on her own. Her personal trainer (Tony… or was it Toby?) glared at Marcel. “You can’t leave me. I’m an heiress for god’s sake. I’m leaving you.”
Neil and Susanna, their respective PR generals, glowered at each other. Index fingers hovered over cell phones, ready to speed-dial the Associated Press. Continue reading THE JIMINY DEVICE by Lisa Mantchev