A couple of months back, The Economist published an article on freeports – areas of land, often near airports, that are used by the super rich to store assets such as ornaments, antiques, art and wine. The benefit of the location of these freeports is that they technically exist outside of any one countries jurisdiction – so goods stored here are technically ‘in transit’ – existing in a sort of stateless form between borders, free from any taxation (though these facilities are often found in countries with a track record of being ‘tax friendly’).
I was reminded of this article today, when at SXSWi both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden gave talks to packed auditoriums. Assange and Snowden are after all, stateless too with one hidden in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, the other seeking asylum in Russia.
I didn’t know what to make of this – in some way it seemed to me like a precursor to an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, or perhaps less impressively, the Al Pacino A.I vehicle S1m0ne. But, more strangely and pertinently, it felt like just another example of what social media is doing to all of us and the way we communicate with people.
The technology is splitting, quite forcibly, the signifier and the sign. Leaving us only with the data of a conversation or interaction, the outputs if you will. The inputs – traditionally the way we socialise with people – are being eroded. That increasingly, to paraphrase Deborah Curtis, we are touching from a distance.
The mission of Facebook is to connect the world to each other. It may succeed in this aim, but the quality if not the quantity of interactions we enjoy as human beings will suffer.
I’ve just pulled the plug on my facebook account.
I will see what happens – whether my social network grows or withers. It’s something i’ve been thinking about for a while.
No more shallow interactions, no more living vicariously through the breadcrumbs people scatter, no more feeds or likes and comments.