2.24.2010

On Chatroulette




Here are some things I wrote to accompany images made by Marc Lafia.

In Chatroullete.com we discovered a new kind of social interaction and identity that is simultaneously a new kind of filmmaking. It is a proliferation of exquisite — and boring and grotesque and...and…and… — moments. This is film making on the go, a collaborative enterprise of narrative shreds that will never add up to anything but this. And is the more glorious and beautiful and hilarious for it.

This is a moment just before the Spectacle and its idiot agents — the news, the government — turn an unmediated encounter into a transaction of fear and money.

Old concepts still define our social network behavior. We want to know where our interlocutors live, how old they are, their gender, education, their likes and dislikes. As McLuhan writes, we cling to the horse and buggy even as the railway pounds by.

The advent of a site and experience such as Chatroullete.com begins to introduce new architectures of the social encounter, encounters no longer tethered by the familiar anchors of place, class, clique, place in the sexual hierarchy, or financial transaction.

This is the network moving so fast that is has sloughed its old skin and its capitalist baggage, leaving us exposed and naked with our desires: What do you want from others?

The moment — because it is a moment and not a narrative — untethers us from the old networks of nation, class, job, psychographic associations. This is the encounter not mediated by capital or the same old metaphors of identity. There is no meta-explanation.

This is at once a collective and an isolated moment, a private experience within the collective network. This is a society of individual moments, a network of fragmented selves that nonetheless are not fragmented.

This is not bottom-up. This is inbetween — inbetween the ads and banners, inbetween the demands of capital, inbetween you and me.

This the dawning of the new flaneur making his way through the digital landscape, traversing the only frontier left him, in search of whatever may come.

What can happen here? A moment of tenderness, curiosity, horror, banality, breast, connection, erection, discovery, fear, loathing, indifference, disgust, knowledge. This is the human and posthuman all at once.

This is the pure put on, the shopping of identities and encounters freed from the tyranny of the Spectacle.

This is x-ray vision, seeing through the walls of houses and apartments, across borders and oceans, breaking down the borders of the bourgeois. This is your living room turned inside out.

This is the moment — no narrative, no explanation, no extension, no mediation. It is dangerous, silly, boring, outrageous, and beautiful.

It is just this.