Will Self at Prospect Magazine:
Since the inception of wireless broadband in the early 2000s there’s been an increasingly febrile climate surrounding our use and understanding of a suite of technologies I like to refer to as Bi-Directional Digital Media (BDDM). The proleptic insights of thinkers as diverse as Marshall McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord into the ontological and epistemic impacts of mass mediatisation are now felt experientially by those masses: our bodies may still patrol the streets, but our minds, increasingly, are smeared across a glassy empyrean—and we feel this deep and existential queasiness, as our emotions are pulled hither and thither by the ebb and flow of massive online feedback loops: an acid reflux of imagery and data to which we’re subject 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Which is presumably why there have been a rash of books, of varying quality, which attempt to explain what the hell’s going on—although for once, the devil really isn’t in the detail, since nobody imagined signing a mobile phone contract was tantamount to becoming a cyborg. James Gleick’s searching and thoughtful The Information, published in 2011, limned the origins of the current age of data—Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows(2010)and The Glass Cage (2014), looked respectively at the cognitive impacts of the internet and automation. Last year saw the publication of Laurence Scott’s The Four Dimensional Human, which hymns the emergent phenomenology of the BDDM realm; and this year came Greg Milner’s Pinpoint, a history of the United States’s military global positioning satellite system, the technology of which, arguably, is most foundational of the cosmic cat’s cradle humanity has woven together out of the virtual and the actual.