Tag Archives: facebook

The man in the machine

I don’t know if people still use this phrase or not but I remember regularly having conversations with people about the gremlins who occupied their computers and somehow made things go awry from time to time. This reminds me, of course, of the classic Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times and the famous sequence where he is swallowed up by the machine and becomes integrated into the system of cogs and gears.

The idea of the gremlin screwing with our computers is an articulation of invisibility. Lev Manovich has described this as a purposeful mystification of technology whereby we are wilfully ignorant of how they work, willing, instead, to defer to others.

The notion that we are living in a digital age has long been an oxymoronic notion to me in much this way. I think that more people are engaged in digital activities, but that few of us remain ‘in the know’ about ‘the man in the machine.’ We are wilfully ignorant of how pressing the ‘like’ button works – could care less about the code behind it. 

Web 2.0 is an invisibility machinery if ever there was one. All we do is layer the illusion of ‘being digital’ overtop analog practices in the Web 2.0, facebook, youtube cultural space. Rarely do we enter into code en masse leaving the power not in the hands of the content contributors but the template makers. After all, who decided that all that is necessary could be said in 144 characters? Why not 145?