At least a dozen, but the better question is what percentage of my day do I look at them. Sadly, that up in the 50%+ range.
One TV, one tablet, one laptop, two cell phones, double monitors at home, triple at work, a screen in my truck, a photo frame on my desk, and a kindle in a pear tree. And that’s not even counting the hundreds in the window of every shop, restaurant, and public notice board.
Twenty-Fifteen: I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m getting serious about reading, again. I’ve dusted off my paperbacks and charged up my Kindle. It’s time to take the time to feed my poor television-adled brain with a selection of healthy, nourishing fiction. So, read on, little brain. Read on. We’re going Book to the Future!
I don’t know why I haven’t been reading this book as quickly as I should be. I mean, I suspect it has something to do with the non-existent chapter structure that makes me feel accomplished after reading four pages before a scene break happens, thus resulting in a slogging progress through this story.
But anyhow, that aside…
I’m about half way through and the story is simultaneously hauntingly near-future scary, and yet slightly over-the-top. I’m still undecided on my verdict.
Synopsis: Mae is a keen new employee to “The Circle” a post-Facebook, internet megacompany that essentially controls every aspect of social and financial transaction on the net. She’s scored a cushy customer service entry-level job in the sprawling wondercampus headquarters, and the tone of the book is clearly setting up to evoke notions of a Google-meets-Apple-meets-Facebook coddled work environment that so many of us outsiders probably suspect is some kind of techno-cult lurking behind gleaming walls. But then that seems to be exactly what this is, and with each passing day Mae is getting deeper and more entrenched, participating in the non-mandatory but damned-if-you-don’t faux socialness of the place, each week acquiring another new screen or device, and with each of this a little more soul-sucking removal of her privacy. To make matters worse, she keeps stumbling and letting this creepy and the over-reaching so-called charity of the company trap her there just a little bit more.
There was a chapter whose tone was essentially scraped from the movie Office Space, that scene where Jennifer Aniston’s character is being berated by her sniveling boss about just doing the “bare minimum” with the “pieces of flair” for her waitress uniform. She’s done what she’s been told, complying with a pointless policy…
Stan: We need to talk. Do you know what this is about?
Joanna: My, uh, flair?
Stan: Yeah. Or, uh, your lack of flair. Because, I’m counting and I only see fifteen pieces. Let me ask you a question, Joanna.
Stan: What do you think of a person who only does the bare minimum?
Joanna: Huh. What do I think? Um, you know what, Stan, if you want me to wear thirty-seven pieces of flair, like your uh, pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum thirty-seven pieces of flair?
Stan: Well, I thought I remembered you saying that you wanted to express yourself.
…but yeah. The Circle has a bit of that tone, too. But at this point in the novel (I’m assuming this is where the character is going because I haven’t seen it yet) Mae hasn’t bitten back at the hand that is simultaneously feeding and grasping her in it’s slimy claw, all the while nudging her to add more “flair”… which in this case means participating in a gag-inducing level of social media play-along, commenting, validating the shallow feelings of her co-workers, answering surveys, liking other peoples drivel (or whatever the fictional equivalent is) and attending a never ending stream of parties.
Oh, and in the middle of it all, she’s quasi-involved in a couple of very troubling and very manipulative relationships that just make you want to scream into the pages for her to quit and go work at Starbucks or something.
The Circle… what a bunch of jerks.
a mash-up of future (of technology) & theatre
We support local theatre. In fact, just this year we received a thank you note from the local theatre company where we have seasons tickets thanking us for ten years of continuous patronage. At six shows per year, for ten years, our involvement with just that one particular company spans about sixty shows, with no plans to stop there.
On the other hand, both my wife and I are in jobs deeply embedded in the information technology sector. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to add a line to either of our job descriptions that evoked the notion of “digitizing services” or simply, part of an industry where we are turning actions that for years have been in the realm of real people doing real face-to-face work into things that people do online, or face-to-screen. We automate.
Part of the attraction to theatre, of course, is that it is not automated. Sure, the ticketing process has become an electronic service, and I’m almost certain that behind the scenes the level of technical integration escalates at a slow but steady rate. Heck, some of the regular actors are now people I follow on Twitter, a level of social-technical integration that arguably adds to the intimacy of live theatre.
Each year we look back to the rows behind us and make note that there seems to be a few more empty seats than the year previous. Our first years as seasonal members we (anecdotally) recall full house shows or longer waits leaving the parking lot at the end of the night. Now, routinely, there always seems to be availability in the house and a quicker exit from the lot.
And part of that, one might suppose, is that we live in a world that is migrating more and more to recorded media. In the years we’ve been holders of season tickets at the live theatre, we’ve also migrated to high definition television, upgraded to Blu-ray, become Netflix subscribers, added extra bandwidth to our mobile devices, installed fast WiFi throughout our house, bought an in-home media server, and become one of those households with an average of three screens per person. All this additional entertainment capacity and saturation of our choices has turned our attendance at live theatre into a bit of a cultural indulgence that we consciously maintain because of its eclectic value to our lives, and not because we’re lacking options.
Of course, the experience of live theatre is not something that is easily replicated by a screen. Direct recordings or otherwise face-to-screen versions of plays or musicals lack the inherent qualities that still sell (expensive) tickets to their face-to-face counterparts. Interpretations and adaptations exist, but survive on merits more tied to storytelling and cinematic quality than the experience of the theatre itself.
Yet to suppose that our future is lacking a yet-to-be-invented or never-used-that-way technology which will replace the theatre experience with a digital analog is probably naive. Someday, just as we have figured out ways to replace so much else with a digital equivalent, e-theatre (or whatever we call it) will actually be something that people pay for, enjoy, and look to as the clear and obvious replacement for hundreds of people in a dark room watching live actors on a stage. I don’t claim to know what that is, how it will work, or what it might look like… but I’d wager that I might live to see such a thing.
Is the role of the current theatre community to watch and rally against it, much like the recording industry railed against digital media? Or is there are role for actors and directors, theatre owners and audiences to shape and inform what that future looks like even as it incrementally evolves from the technological corners of the world? Do we put our heads in the sand and hope it passes, leaving our eclectic interests alone… or do we strap on an Oculus Rift or a pair of Google Glass and become an integral part of that technological evolution?
We follow a no-media-Monday rule at our house. Claire is never impressed when Monday rolls around, but she gets over it quickly because she gets so much parental attention as a result.