Belmont- Chicago’s North Side, Genmaicha in a Chinese tea-shop, where the owner threatens to enforce the 6 p.m. closing time over the din of a Bull’s game from the corner TV.
Staying with S., whom I met in Haifa where she was marooned in an ill-fated study-abroad program. The first night in, I slept in her sister’s bed, adrift on a lagoon of linens. Lst night, squatting at her friends dorm at UIC, I (very carefully) tossed and turned on the bare floor, trying to keep warm while crumpling a towel under my bony hips. I must have gone soft, or else the one-night contrast had put me into sleep-shock.
In the morning, we talked about the blurring distinction between the “real” and “virtual” worlds. S. and her friend contended that web-events were just as real as real events, and so the term “real” itself has lost much of its relevance. I suggested that in our posthumanist, postcyber society, in which the range of fanciful but consequential e-possibilities has outgrown the limits of our physical realm, we could really replace the word “real” with “avirtual”…
“Hi mom, how was your morning?”
“Well, I went shopping, played checkers with Nana, took a test for my MFA literature class and met with my lawyer.”
“Have you left the house today? It’s freezing out.”
“I know, I had to pick up your father’s shirts from the avirtual cleaners. It took me thirty minutes to get there and back.”
Meanwhile, a new generation of mistechnosists (think once-savvy, now fallen techno’phobes’) have cropped up among younger cit-e-zins, who have adopted the now quaint, vintage-vogue habits of their grandparents’ tech-illiterate lives. These are the cell-phoneless, the ungooglables, the click-and-reel film photographers that wage silent rebellion against the wired world and its collective identity machine. These new pencil-and-paper disciples do not look to their earth-muffin forebears for inspiration. The greenies have plugged in, and twenty-first century environmentalism has moved off of the farm. Greenpeace, the popular barometer of the environmental center-left, has cracked into all media and advertizing forms to fight the good fight, and serious self-styled eco-justice police now look much farther afield than their corner watershed, posting hacked audio-minutes of recent WTO meetings on RSS feeds. Instead, the new generation of mistechnoists seem at war not with the machinery of modern life, but with the democratization of identity. As myspace and its ilk have reached out to younger and younger audiences, children are being forced to select, cultivate and market an online identity about as soon as they can type. Growing up is no longer about “finding yourself”, but about “selling” yourself and maintaining a fresh, consistent, identity vanguard for the rest of the world to oggle and reference. My generation, perhaps the first of these bitsters-gone-hipsters, is just starting to wake up to the electronic identity crisis. Nowadays, when I ask a girl on a coffee date, my primary worry is that she won’t be as cool as her facebook profile.