A Modern Camera Feed

by CrackedWire /


Cracks and wires are strewn across the dry landscape. Only hidden insects and a constant hum of electricity assure listeners that the location wasn't entirely devoid of life. In fact, it is very much alive. Past fires and droughts clear the way for solar and server farms. Signals race up and down columns of a vast, almost living network architecture. They speed across fiber-optic cables, past fields of industrialized mono-culture, and are rendered on screens as digital billboards. CALL 1-800-JESUS dissipates into pixels of pornography and pet videos. Messages and media bloom atop trunks of alloyed antennae and copper roots. The worlds of Bratton's Stack and McCarthy's Blood Meridian are fused through an array of technical hyperlinks, mirroring the outskirts of Gibson's Sprawl.

Discussion whether this points to an alternate future or some sci-fi scene only obscures the uneasy familiarity of the view. This world has been built, transmitted and distributed by old users to new. The labor of erecting cell-towers, extracting energy, and laying miles of cable under-girds systems of gigabytes and gig work. As a writer of "content," the meaning matters far less than the message. This "content" is directed to an audience, not of people, but to machines, to the algorithmic highways that direct flows of attention. If there is fact in the form of fiction, then "sponsored content" advertises more than it intends.

The ads and messages of our augmented reality disclose a set of social relations not all too alien from their physical counterparts. The incalculable amounts of people and their labor that render these networks and "adSense" analytics profitable in the first place are assumed. They are now background processes, flesh-and-blood daemons that generate profit when executed. A logic of a system, taking shape and forming out of the infernal twin metabolisms of exploitation and extraction, is beginning to cohere. Yet this system isn't virtual. It is not in some Matrix-mainframe, only reachable by lone-wolfs in mirrorshades.

It is seen on the highways, in RF-coded supply chains, in underground lithium deposits, in the servers that store this very website. Most importantly, however, it is ultimately contained in the sheer capacity of the people that bring these materials to life. If something new is desired, it can only be realized through the very power and strength that brought about this landscape. Only when ransomware attacks begin to look like general strikes is this capacity ready to be leveraged.

#technology #politics #nature