The Art of Life in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Tim Leberecht

Design Mind

While not a member of the Net Generation (the 88 million Millennials for whom social networking is a birthright) myself, I have many friends and co-workers who qualify, and I am constantly baffled by their ease and eagerness to narrow- and broadcast their lives through digital media and with post-privacy transparency. The audience size doesn’t matter, it can be narrow or broad, but cast it must be, even if it is often mundane. And yet, it is one of the ironies of such “ego-casting” that the status updates, which become critical life signs, the activity metrics of one’s public life, do not begin with “I” but mostly appear in third person on Facebook and Twitter and the likes.


This is because all these outlets treat the amateur publisher as a dramatic person per se: “Anthony is happy.” – “Tim is working on an economic stimulus plan.” – “Sarah loves Tea Leaf Green.” When the Net Geners aggregate their social media publishing output into one FriendFeed, the effect becomes fully obvious: here we have the constant flux, the permanent Now as manifest and yet as fragmented as it can be. “It ain’t why, why, why, it just is,” Van Morrison sang, and another famous Irish artist, James Joyce, based on the concluding free-flow monologue of his Ulysses, would likely agree with the inevitability of “the river of life” as a never-ending “stream of consciousness” that affirms nothing but the fact that one is alive: “Yes.”

1 Comment

  1. This is something that amazes me. I am a person with few pet peeves, but someone who constantly updates facebook and other social networking tools every 5 minutes, changes their profile pictures everyday and have literally thousands of pictures publicly posted extremely aggravates me. Although a few of our peers certainly caught on, I guess our generation (born in the early to mid 80’s) just missed the boat. “…one of the ironies of such ‘ego-casting’ that the status updates, which become critical life signs” holds true. Everyone has the opportunity to become a celebrity, and because of this we lose the mystery involved with building friendships, and other relationships. People are known by their internet avatar, before their substantive personalities. I have a real problem with this, but I can’t help comparing it to my interpretation of photography and how its invention predestined our society for a ubiquitous ‘post-privacy transparency’. It may be an oxymoronic to hate what the medium I love can facilitate, so it makes me wonder when people who share my frustration will concede that this perpetual internet-centric personality is just the way “it is.”



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