In the unfolding histories of electronic media since the 1960s, we have seen video evolve from the exclusive domain of television broadcasting, to the ubiquitous phones we carry around with us every day. So too, the fusion of broadcasting and telecommunications has progressed from satellite technology, far from our reach, to the omniscient global connectivity that unites us through our mobile devices.
Now that we are all active participants in the videosphere, a concept Gene Youngblood declared in 1970 as the new communications space; or now that we are all like the “Videofreex,” the media collective that pirated one of the first underground television broadcasts in 1972; or now that we are all puncturing a “Hole-in-Space,” just as Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowtz did in their seminal 1980 public communications sculpture, a spontaneous Happening via satellite between New York and Los Angeles; yes, now that all of this connectivity, media, and networked social engagement is at our fingertips, wherever we are and whenever we want, what are WE going to do with it?
The responsibility of “netartizenship” – in which we are all citizens and carriers of the Internet medium – belongs to each and every one one of us, it belongs to you and me. We are all members, willing or not, of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village” and the collapse of the world’s geography; we are potentially engaged in Roy Ascott’s utopic concept of the “telematic embrace;” and we are all passengers on Buckminster Fuller’s “spaceship earth,” which is today the networked vessel we travel in the third space of shared, online relations.
The communications revolution that emerged in the 1960s resulting from the technologies of electronic media, cybernetics, video, and telecommunications is still ongoing, and most certainly still in its infancy. For if you observe the new millennial generation, the digital natives who have never known a world without the Web, who have grown up swiping their smart phone screens as an extension of their nervous system (also predicted by McLuhan), this generation has largely succumbed to the numbing impulse of involuntary reflex to the data that pulses through their sensory mechanisms. They are creatures of the network largely without conscious knowledge of their entrapment in the ever-present Now of stimulation emanating from the network.
If the original intent of the revolution, as prophesied by such visionaries as McLuhan, Fuller, Youngblood, Ascott, and many others, was an expansion of consciousness, connectivity, collectivism in the telematic sphere and higher realms of communalism and social engagement, then we have a long, long way to go. In effect, we may even be heading backwards. How is the revolution inspired by the communities of the Whole Earth Catalog (1968) or Radical Software (1970) ever to be attained in our age of corporate controlled social media platforms?
The movement had originally challenged the hierarchical, financially-driven agendas of mainstream media by encouraging people to be their own independent media makers. But now that we are all active participants and media makers in the videosphere, what exactly are we creating? Are we just serving the interests of Big Data who are busy mining our identities, preferences, and social transactions? Are we helpless at the whims of the platform designers and technology manufacturers who control the industry of our media existence? Has our individual and collective biological system been forever coupled to the media torrent? How do we now, in fact, perform what McLuhan referred to as “collective surgery on the social body” to examine the impact of electronic media and communications “by which we amplify and extend ourselves?”
These are the looming questions we must ask if we are not to become mere pawns of the videosphere, but rather active agents, or let us say “Videofreex,” pirating and spiriting the direction of the communications revolution.