Future of pop culture

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 15, 2012, Western News celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special edition asking 40 Western researchers to share the 40 THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEXT 40 YEARS. This is one of those entries. To view the entire anniversary issue, visit the Western News archives.

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I have to laugh silently (who laughs out loud in this crammed world of ours without bringing the lifebots?) when I look back to what my grandparents (too bad their brains exploded during the first Implant Wars — they were 35 years young, all five of them) called the ‘media cycle.’ They tried to tell me that classically ™abUsed™, washed up once‑were‑objects like Snooki appeared on what they called ‘crowd-sourced’ media like YoursTube (or something) to make themselves into hits.

And ‘viral’? That was before everyone caught BugZilla, a neural update that gave half its victims a stroke because it subjected them to a 24/7/365 supermix of ABBA mashups. What a way to go.

Nobody calls something viral by accident these days — it isn’t a metaphor. Last week, I saw someone suffering the last stages of Eimboz, a virus downloaded from the Zombie channel — they had almost fully regressed to age 12.

Now that’s a nightmare; relive your adolescence every week.

A lot of people dropped the show, but the channel more than made up for it by signing on oldsters over the age of 30. If I ever live to 30, I won’t be doing Zombie, that’s for sure. I’ll be relaxing on GamerPlanet!

These days, I’m undecided about who to channel. My apartment (it’s really just a room the size of my bed, but it seems so much bigger because the neural net I always wear – my Ne(x)Tension©™®@# – convinces my body I exist on a Greek isle, unless I’m data-diving) is a war zone for different crowd providers. The top one at the moment is ™GoBing GoBing™, a pro-shopping, pro-digital channel. (The name is some kind of lame antique joke, as I understand it, but if it happened last year, who has “bandwidth to care or a terabyte to spare,” as the saying goes?).

Yeah, if Boing, whoever he was, could see what the inside of my head looked like, they might not be too thrilled with all those crowds that can ‘source’ things. I’m just cranky because my ‘newtreant’ drip is low on glucose.

I’m busy looking at thousands of screens a day. If I see something I want, I just step into a screen, it wraps around me, and now I’m channeling it. I can even see them when I’m asleep.

I try not to outsource my brain for galactic computing (it used to be called ‘vapor computing,’ or something?). Whatever. Outsourcing cuts down on what it costs me for uninterrupted sleep. But lately, I’m just making bed-rent, so I’m not getting ambitious.

Still, I can dream, can’t I? Okay, technically I can’t because I have ads, but you get the jist — a cool word I datamined from some old guy at some Media Department.

Each day, my Ne(x)Tension& nerve suit comes on line, extends my nervous system and starts pumping images into my brain, dumping me on the Plaza. I get all the SSVS (sounds, smells, & various sensations) in my actual body thanks to my Ne(x)Tension& suit that opens up the enormous world that is part game, part a wall of images and sensations, part limitless meeting ground where you can see millions of users disappearing into a haze of distance.

I’ve never walked the whole Plaza, but apparently if you do it at normal speed instead of ‘forward flying’ (at a good rate, like 1024x or so), you won’t get to the end before your body dies or you become ™abUsed™.

I pick up my current channels: 21 nanoseconds of G/L/ympics (“Workout with the Amateurs” is their motto); 30 nanoseconds (n-sex as they’re called) of consensual crowd-sourced sex with about 8,000 people in my age, body-type and kink of choice; 10 n-sex of time with the HyperLander (this week the rover lands on a planet in Alpha Centaurii — I’m curious to see how the prospects are for colonization); 63 n-sex of actual work (scouting deep memory for cool retro things I can sell to advertisers — old people, like, older than 25, are fantastic for junk mind resales).

They used to talk about ‘Reality TV,’ but everything is real all the time, now. I connect with and live in the heads of another 40 people in the next few milliseconds, downloading their last few terabytes of memories and physical sensations. (One file has a warning on it — crossed nerve bundles — looks like someone had their neural net yanked during the broadcast … that’s supposed to be painfully ugly so I’ll just delete the channel.) I have a week’s subscription to InnerU, which allows any idiot with a Ne(x)Tension& suit to set up a channel and broadcast their selves.

Usually a waste of time, but the memories can be good for datamining.

I’m working toward enough credit to take a whole day ad-off. Because I can’t afford true screening, the ads come in with every channel, every image, sound and sensation I get. A good chunk of credit will let me buy 3Block3 that turns off all unwanted ads for as long as 24 hours. I’ve heard the conglomerates are going to force the time down to 20 hours — it’s just too expensive to have people’s lobes unavailable for a whole day.

I’ve been thinking about channeling some eDdeww, as they call it because it’s so dull, but learning even a little bit of something might give me a chance at more quiet time, or it might draw other people to my own InnerU channel. That’d be interesting, for once, to make people live my life.

Somebody once said there was such a thing as popular culture, but these days, or really n-sex, there isn’t anything else.

Tim Blackmore is a professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.