Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"here" & "apps"

Today I am a guest contributor to the blog Changing Lives, Changing Minds, a literature blog out of UMass-Dartmouth. You can view my post here.

Two new media observations:

1. On that curious word here: A friend recently pointed out that the linked word "here" has attained a funny way of functioning as a floating transit point with no necessary stable spatial anchor. Online, the linked word "here" can lead one anywhere (here), or nowhere (here). I also see that there is a place called which is thoroughly cryptic but existentially reassuring. I wonder if the linked word "here" is a sort of virtual "non-place"—an updated version of how the anthropologist Marc AugĂ© has used this term to describe spaces that are designed for passage and transition, never to serve as distinct places in and of themselves (e.g., airports, highway rest stops, & ATMs).

2. Lately I've been seeing a lot of advertisements that evince the plethora of "apps" available for the iPhone. I was discussing some of these applications with my students recently in class (the iHandy Carpenter with its digital level, The Moron Test, etc.), and one student rolled his eyes and said "They've got an app for everything." Yet when people are surprised (or annoyed) that there is an iPhone application for "everything," it seems to me that this is not entirely different from being surprised (or annoyed) that there is everything there is in the world. Perhaps this is the secret trick of the iPhone: it refreshes the already existing world with a surprising quality of recognizability. (Because surely we couldn't have apps that were unintelligible or ineffable.) Thus the iPhone apps depend on our continual experience of a rather underwhelming revelation, something to the the effect of: "I can't believe that there are so many things in the world!"