We are living, says True Ancestor, in the Age of the Death of Experience:
Within the past two decades, every action and interaction has begun to be submitted to the mediation of the experience and perspective of others, at greater speeds and depths, so that now, unmediated, uncontemplated experience — a shock to the system, a real live threat or opportunity, the sensory thrill of the immediate and unexpected that even the angels cannot know — is something for which younger generations are becoming thoroughly unequipped. The idea that you lean into the world with your physical being is vanishing. You now deputize technology to lean for you. Search engines, touchscreens and digital hieroglyphics cease to be tools, and become replacements for experience.
This is not to say that we never did this before. Consider the seemingly-ancient TripTik, which someone down at the Triple-A office would draw for us before we left on our Epic Journey to Shelbyville or wherever. They knew the roads, and we didn’t, so we had no problem accepting their advice. (Now, of course, there’s an app for that.)
Experience has until now begun with contact. Now it begins with a Google search. What’s lost is the ability to improvise one’s way through upheaval. We have, in varying degrees, the necessary sensory and mental equipment to improvise through upheaval, but that requires instinct and improvisation. When everything is ordered and rehearsed, packaged and delivered, instinct and improvisation become quaint.
There are times when I’m tempted to blame television. The programs are scripted; the news is scripted; even the so-called “reality shows” are scripted. If we want our problems neatly tied up before the top of the hour, shouldn’t we do a little scripting ourselves? But this phenomenon seems to be accelerating, even as the Internet displaces television, so there’s got to be some other factor at work.
I wonder how much of this is the simple desire to duck responsibility. If we work up all those searches, check out all those destinations, do all that due diligence, and yet somehow things still go wrong, we will not note ruefully that there is but one God, and Murphy is His prophet; we will instead blame those cruel, heartless individuals who posted all those good reviews specifically to cause our experience to fail, because, well, why else would they do such a thing?
Or maybe it’s a bit more elemental. Feces, as the bumper sticker doesn’t quite say, transpire; I suspect most of us will go to a lot of trouble to make sure we don’t have to deal with the stuff up close and in person. Which is all very well and good, until the fan is struck by it.
(Via this Annie Gottleib tweet.)