Home > Uncategorized > Generation Why? by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books

Generation Why? by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books

Perhaps Generation Facebook have built their virtual mansions in good faith, in order to house the People 2.0 they genuinely are, and if I feel uncomfortable within them it is because I am stuck at Person 1.0. Then again, the more time I spend with the tail end of Generation Facebook (in the shape of my students) the more convinced I become that some of the software currently shaping their generation is unworthy of them. They are more interesting than it is. They deserve better…

Fincher makes a brave stab at showing the intensity of programming in action (“He’s wired in,” people say to other people to stop them disturbing a third person who sits before a laptop wearing noise-reducing earphones) and there’s a “vodka-shots-and-programming” party in Zuckerberg’s dorm room that gives us some clue of the pleasures. But even if we spent half the film looking at those busy screens (and we do get glimpses), most of us would be none the wiser. Watching this movie, even though you know Sorkin wants your disapproval, you can’t help feel a little swell of pride in this 2.0 generation. They’ve spent a decade being berated for not making the right sorts of paintings or novels or music or politics. Turns out the brightest 2.0 kids have been doing something else extraordinary. They’ve been making a world…

The striking thing about the real Zuckerberg, in video and in print, is the relative banality of his ideas concerning the “Why” of Facebook. He uses the word “connect”… as if it were sacred in and of itself: “So the idea is really that, um, the site helps everyone connect with people and share information with the people they want to stay connected with….” Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important…

What’s striking about Zuckerberg’s vision of an open Internet is the very blandness it requires to function, as Facebook members discovered when the site changed their privacy settings, allowing more things to become more public, with the (unintended?) consequence that your Aunt Dora could suddenly find out you joined the group Queer Nation last Tuesday. Gay kids became un-gay, partiers took down their party photos, political firebrands put out their fires. In real life we can be all these people on our own terms, in our own way, with whom we choose. For a revealing moment Facebook forgot that. Or else got bored of waiting for us to change in the ways it’s betting we will…

In the film, Sean Parker… delivers what is intended as a generation-defining line: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities and now we’re gonna live on the internet.” To this idea [Jaron] Lanier, one of the Internet’s original visionaries, can have no profound objection. But his skeptical interrogation of the “Nerd reductionism” of Web 2.0 [in his book You Are Not A Gadget] prompts us to ask a question: What kind of life? Surely not this one, where 500 million connected people all decide to watch the reality-TV show Bride Wars because their friends are? “You have to be somebody,” Lanier writes, “before you can share yourself.” But to Zuckerberg sharing your choices with everybody (and doing what they do) is being somebody…

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears…

With Facebook, Zuckerberg seems to be trying to create something like a Noosphere, an Internet with one mind, a uniform environment in which it genuinely doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you make “choices” (which means, finally, purchases)…

It feels important to remind ourselves, at this point, that Facebook, our new beloved interface with reality, was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore’s preoccupations. What is your relationship status? (Choose one. There can be only one answer. People need to know.) Do you have a “life”? (Prove it. Post pictures.) Do you like the right sort of things? (Make a list. Things to like will include: movies, music, books and television, but not architecture, ideas, or plants.)

But here I fear I am becoming nostalgic. I am dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of person who no longer exists. A private person, a person who is a mystery, to the world and—which is more important—to herself.

via Generation Why? by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books.

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