Batman Incorporated and Kanye West: media homunculi

Paul Raven @ 26-11-2010

Here’s a super bit of cyborg-media-culture-identity riffing from Kevin Lovelace at grinding.be about the power of brands and/or identities (the difference between the two is getting pretty fuzzy) as prosthetic cyborg extensions of our selves. A post that mashes up Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc., Kanye West and open-source umbrella identities like Anonymous – what’s not to love?

By becoming a transmedia brand, the Batman gains the ability to clone itself and sent out its conceptual mind-babies out into the world, doing the work of Batman even in the actual absence of Batman.   Many people “know” Kanye via his body of work and his carefully sculpted public persona – a persona so information rich and media saturated that it can spawn its own meta-narratives.  Kanye West is the puppet of the Illuminati, and we can prove it!  He’s brilliant!  He’s insane!  He’s…  He’s a story.  The Kanye that 99% of the people reading this know is a story about a man who makes music – a narrative crafted largely BY the man who makes that music.  Its is a story with granularity and richness enough to allow many points of entry and engagement, spin-offs, theories and supposition.    The Kanye West we “know” is a prosthetic identity – an interface program that uses media as its computational substrate that exists between “us” the audience and the “real” Kanye (and his PR team) who operate the prosthetic.

Lots of connections to our earlier discussions of the ubiquity of narrative in an altermodern culture… we are all the stories of ourselves, but we can change the plot whenever we like, or even let other people write their own versions. Go read it.


Are zombies a proxy for the American Zeitgeist?

Paul Raven @ 02-11-2009

If this isn't a sign that the undead are a dead meme, I don't know what is...Via SlashDot, here’s a brief piece at Forbes that wonders whether the zombie is Americas equivalent of Godzilla – a symbol of technology run amok, but one that can be dealt with in hand-to-hand mano a mano combat rather than by the deployment of the state’s military resources:

[…] there’s one major difference between Godzilla and the attack of the zombies: Godzilla fought scientists and the military (and maybe the occasional band of adorable children), but zombie battles usually are a person-to-ex-person struggle. While Godzilla swatted at planes and crushed tanks underfoot, zombies are done in by weapons such as shotguns, hand grenades and the ever-handy chainsaw.

Americans must like the idea that, as out of control as our hubristic science might become, a good machete and a 12 gauge in the hands of a competent man or woman can always save the day.

[…]

To be sure, it’s easy to read more into the popularity of zombies than might actually be there. Film-goers have always loved a good scare, and a shambling collection of neuron-challenged corpses make a pretty terrifying story. And if my zombie-obsessed 14-year-old son is a representative sample, blowing the undead away with heavy weaponry has a solid adolescent demographic appeal. But there’s no question, at least in my mind, that zombies (and Godzilla) are an allegorical representation of our fear that science and the technologies it spawn will lead to our destruction.

It’s a plausible reading, I think, though I’d hesitate to claim it as anywhere near definitive. It does chime rather well with our very own Jonathan McCalmont’s theory that the modern iterations of the zombie trope reflect a fear of transhumanism. I also seem to remember reading a recent critique that pegged the zombie as representing our subliminal fears of population expansion due to increased lifespans for the “unproductive elderly” (and/or immigration), but I’m damned if I can find the link or remember the source – anyone else catch that one, at all? [image by ella_marie]

One thing I can say for certain about zombies, though, is that I’m sick to the gills of hearing about them. As far as shark-jumping in the genre blogosphere goes, the only meme that comes close to the tedious prevailing ubiquity of zombies is steampunk… which is also starting to wear the welcome mat very thin indeed, at least in this household.


News cycle identified

Tom James @ 13-07-2009

lipstickonapSome glorious and fascinating reportage-porn at memetracker that shows how news stories are taken up and how long they last and what their impact is:

They found a consistent rhythm as stories rose into prominence and then fell off over just a few days, with a “heartbeat” pattern of handoffs between blogs and mainstream media. In mainstream media, they found, a story rises to prominence slowly then dies quickly; in the blogosphere, stories rise in popularity very quickly but then stay around longer, as discussion goes back and forth. Eventually though, almost every story is pushed aside by something newer.

There is something truly wonderful about seeing this information laid out in such an intuitive manner. This kind of analysis of the growth, spread, and retention of ideas is certainly an area that will expand and grow over time.

[via Physorg, from MemeTracker]


Stephen Hawking on transhumanism

Tom James @ 03-07-2009

curved_lawnPhysicist Stephen Hawking has commented on transhumanism and the future direction of humanity:

Hawking says that we have entered a new phase of evolution. “At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information.”

But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.

“I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race,” Hawking said.

This point has echos of Jack Cohen and Ian Stewarts ideas of extelligence, Richard Dawkins‘ notion of the meme, and Kevin Kelly‘s concept of the Technium. What is special about humans is as much about what happens outside and between our minds as any other intrinsic properties of homo sapiens sapiens

[via George Dvorsky, from The Daily Galaxy][image from Peter Kaminski on flickr]


Why I’m looking forward to 2012

Mac Tonnies @ 08-04-2009

Mac Tonnies - Loving the AlienIf you thought we were all done with millennial panics and numerically significant dates for another thousand years or so, think again. Mac Tonnies looks a short way ahead to December 2012, the much-touted end of the Fifth Sun of the Mayan calendar, and wonders whether we’re doomed as a species to perpetually rebuild such temporal milestones. Continue reading “Why I’m looking forward to 2012”