19 November 2007

Programming Self

I see it everywhere. Walking through public places, children, teenagers, and even adults are plugged in to iPods. Suddenly, I become suspicious of the term "programming."

Self is a narrative that the brain tells itself to create a coherent experience, says my daughter who is majoring in cognitive science. Does that mean that who I am is just the plastic thingy that holds together the six pack? I should be more offended, but I'm just a narrative so I let it slide.

Our culture is becoming more fragmented. In LA County, more than a 100 different languages are spoken in homes. Even people who all speak English talk about things I can't understand - esoteric is the new dialect, as religious, business, technical, and cultural groups all generate a slew of terms and concepts that require nothing less than years of immersion to understand and decode. We're becoming tribes of specialists doomed to feel alienated unless we show an interest in politics or sports or celebrities.

The media, then, becomes the narrative that holds culture together. Suddenly, the programming that is being distributed more incessantly than ever before - through iPods and Internet and TV and radio and magazines and newspapers - makes perfect sense. It feeds our need for cultural cohesion. Programming might shape young minds. Culture might be the default cult for which there is no de-programming. Or it may just be that individual lives need a narrative outside themselves that provides a sense of cohesion. In either case, those iPods seemed inevitable.

5 comments:

ThomasLB said...

So it's our compulsion to isoloate ourselves that binds us all together?

exskindiver said...

ipods spare us all from having to deal with the negatives of civilization (annoying music, people that chew with their mouth open, loud cell phone talkers, people on an airplane that want everyone to hear their opinion)
but ipods also rob us of the ability to improve our people skills necessary to deal with everyday interactions the world necessitates.

wait. i lost my train of thought.
i need to recharge my ipod.

Damon said...

my head just exploded.

thanks a lot.

Life Hiker said...

Yes, our culture is more fragmented, but just "more" fragmented. It always has been in many places, as I recall from my youth in suburban Pittsburgh where I was surrounded by Mafia members, many 1st and 2nd generation Americans from Europe and Asia, and a mix of religions. Then I went South to be in the army and found a whole new set of "cultures".

My sense is that this new programming has the benefit of being able to expose people to all kinds of cultures and ideas in a much more convenient way than ever before possible. Or am I too, just another plastic thingy that holds the six pack together?

Ron Davison said...

Thomas,
what did Lilly Tomlin say? We're all in this alone. Once we realize that, we don't feel so all alone.

xSD,
On a serious note, I do wonder what developmental cues are getting missed when kids are around people but missing the little things. But maybe our world is so crowded this is simply the way to get breathing room to develop in ways more familiar to our old genes.

Damon,
I'm here to help. Your comment might be the closest thing I ever get to being accused of delivering anything mind blowing.

LH,
I think it's true that in the past there was more fragmentation but most of it escaped notice - occuring as it did beyond the confines of our sensory perception. Today, nothing lies outside that, so we're perhaps even more accutely aware. Or maybe I stopped making sense on this topic about 10 paragraphs ago. Plastic thingy indeed.