Monday, 27 July 2015

A carnival of gaffes

But let’s look at this hunt for errors from a more technical perspective. Or a more technological one, to put it otherwise. Or just from another perspective, pure and simple.

The example of the book reviews of last week doesn't make for an isolated phenomenon. Take a look at YouTube. It’s packed full of vigilant watchers who see mistakes in films and take great pleasure in sharing their findings. Best Fails. Greatest Mistakes. Funny Goofs. These are the titles that entertain the generation of faults: our generation.

Little they seem when regarded in isolation. But greatly they weigh when put together.One sees them and one criticizes. Or on the contrary, one sees them and one revels in the rise of all marginal genres, of which the fail is one of the most popular. The question remains at the centre of all this: What’s it with the hiccup, with the glitch, with the malfunction? What makes them so appealing, so exciting?

Possible answer: Maybe the lure of the power that’s crushing under its own weight. Or maybe something more technical, more, how should I put it, of our time.

The age of the non-expert

We need to see that things are changing around us, and in many regards. Formerly accepted methods, in knowledge as well as in technologies, have been falling short of their grandiose promises. They can no longer provide recipes to go by. They can no longer provide recipes, full stop. The world isn’t working the way it used to. Top to bottom is not the right trajectory anymore. Hierarchies (which are the very essence of traditional power, based on dissemination from above, on weighing down on the subaltern and on legalizing the utterance of the few against the argument of the many) are obsolete now.
Yes, this constant hunt for errors is the result of the new reality in which the non-specialist rules. It is the result of Web 2.0. The consumer turned into producer, the user turned into a manufacturer – these things have helped immensely the trend.
When the video cassette, and then the DVD player, were invented, they were praised primarily for one quality: the user's ability to go back and forth, a magical act permitted by the rewind and the fast-forward functions. That aspect has been immensely improved and further facilitated by Web 2.0, with its YouTube offspring and all the adaptations that ensued from it, which allows anyone with an internet connection to play with video or music files to their heart’s content. Add to that things like Netflix, or Igloo, and the picture becomes sharper. Access to mistakes is one of the many possibilities opened up by this unrestrained access to everything.

The more, the better

The issue is related, of course, to the general trend taking place in the online universe, where creativity has taken a sharp turn from creation to curation. Like all artists who take pride in their work, YouTubers find their own reserves of pride in the mashups they produce. Keeping things together is more important than pointing them out in isolation from each other. That's why the great hunt for mistakes is one that takes place in an ecosystem of its own, with cases upon cases making up the little universe of failures-on-record.

Source: Warren Fyfe
This seems, indeed, to be the case: the issue of recording, of having things on record, preserved (curated) in an effort to make a case for something. We seem to have learned rather well the techniques of argumentation taught to us as early as primary school: if you want to be credible you need to amass proof. The more, the better. Accumulation shows us the way, and this feels uncannily familiar. We must have seen it in another form, somewhere else. Maybe in the utilitarian logic based on the argument of quantity?
Errors can provide this reassurance of large numbers when they come about invasion-style. And by the looks of it they do seem to take up quite a lot of space; a lot of the generous space offered by the Empire of Data.

Going viral means growing fast

But there seems to be something else behind this abundance of failures, behind this carnival of gaffes.
Logic of nature: when abundance becomes apparent it generates movements of its own, interests that tip the ecosystem towards particular phenomena, to the detriment of others. Translated into human language, this theorem finds its materialization in the logic of profits. As long as the hunt for errors remains a local issue, it raises an eyebrow or two but nothing more. When the tendency becomes visible, though, when it goes viral, it calls for action. In that case, producing a piece of art riddled with errors makes perfect sense. Satisfying the pleasure of the hunters brings home the need to be in the limelight. In other words, there’s a lot to be gained from being talked about online. Good or bad, it matters not when the accountants start counting hits and data traffic. The most important thing now is to be seen, to be watched, to be shared, to be watched again, and to be shared and shared and shared ad infinitum. Value is nothing. Presence is all.