Monday, March 05, 2007

Suburbanite = Terminal Citizen

From growing up in a typical, conservative suburb, I saw the degradation of the sense of community. In the beginning, as a kindergartener, I remember running through the fields of empty plots with neighborhood children of a similar age. Despite warnings from adults to beware of snakes, games of tag matured into competitive homerun derbies. The homerun derbies, however, quickly died in frequency as plots became filled, and the diamond was limited to the fences of a backyard. By the time I was out of middle school, communication with neighborhood friends was nothing more than a half-hearted wave or nod of acknowledgment. The plots were filled, and dense traffic made playing in the street inconvenient and dangerous.

The generation that followed, my siblings, and I were "cocooned" by "teleports" (20). As urbanization limited our realm or space in the "near," the "distant" promised freedom (20). The suburb, in itself, embodies the aims of the "teletopical City" (21). Cities are planned in a grid-like fashion to promote efficiency and reduce the amount of time and space that is needed to travel between destinations. The space in between destinations becomes a repetitive landscape. In this way, there is a similar sense of focus on the arrival that is given from channel surfing.

While the suburb does not directly resemble the "teletopical City" because the suburb is still defined by conrete space, limitations and segegration of the here and now made the freedom of telepresence that much more appealing. The freedom of mobility that used to inspire children to venture into abandoned houses and "haunted" forests, which are now extinct in suburbia, transformed into the exploration of the web. Virilio's assertions about channel-surfing have even more validity when considering the activity of surfing the web. Language that describes human interactivity with the Internet mimics descriptions of concrete space and time. We go to and leave websites as if they were actual places. Search engines help us navigate and find the web "address" that we desire. The destinations for telepresence are endless. There is an undeniably liberating quality to the Interent, possibly synonymous with teletopia (Second Life?), in contrast to the "concrete presence," which focuses on the ownership of physical boundaries.



Blogger kalphonso said...

I found the connection between channel surfing and the body's interaction with society quite intriguing as well. We are so caught up with the need to make as little effort as possible, that we are slowly erasing ourselves out of existence. With each innovation, humanity is becoming less and less necessary. If we do not contribute to society/to the betterment of ourselves, are we really existing?

3/05/2007 11:49 PM  

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