In her essay Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self, Sherry Turkle discusses how due to our always online culture, we are loosing our ability to be connected with the people who are physically near us. She talks about the loss of learning opportunities and the loss of new life experiences along with the benefits that we gain when things don’t work out according to plan.
Although on the surface it would seem that the ‘always online’ culture gives us boundless knowledge, infinite choice and variety of entertainment for every taste and need. Information overload can leave us feeling lost, and we naturally seek relief in taste-makers to propagate and guide our consumption. Relief from anxiety is short lived, and with ever increasing feelings of impotence we trundle down the path of consumerism – an obedient fleet of mindless cat loving drones.
Google and other services tailor our experience with personalised filtering of content. Sending us what it calculates we like based on what it ‘learns’ about us – thus creating a positive feedback loop which might chaotically self organise into patterned uniformity in the fullness of time – and a further lack of opportunity for independent opinion. According to Turkle we have the responsibility to ask of society whether current technology is leading us in directions that serve our human purposes. That question she says is not technical but moral, and political.
Many artists are exploring the gaps between the flows of power and the smokescreens set up by the powerful for the feudal payment of dues that are determined by algorithms out of control. The maintenance of the unnecessary by any means necessary.
In my case – with playing games and with Rootbeans in particular, I’m asking “what’s important to you?” “What mental loops are you iterating through?” asking random people to show me how they make their choices and asking how power flows for them. The act itself of questioning and mapping provides a physical and emotional connection between me, and the participants. Questioning ownership and authorship, aesthetics and value, the map artefact becomes a proof, evidence, an interesting but ambiguous art product. As an evolving exercise, playing the game takes leads randomly from one group of people and experiences to another. From one location to another – opening new doors and creating new learning opportunities.
In a similar way to The Situationist’s dérive – the journey, and psychogeographical mapping of that experience becomes important. When you don’t know what to expect, loosing control in the destination but finding flow and control in the journey. Inherently human is our ability to create meaning from whatever we find around us. We can allow mental loops to be broken – the ones that we keep repeating in our minds again and again that force us to continue to follow the same mental neural pathways which since the time of our birth become neural motorways, zipping the same thoughts, habits, beliefs and driving forces along them.