Reality Sandwich: Of Campfires and Computers

November 11th, 2008 | Category: Announcements, Essays

When Daniel Pinchbeck invited me to write something for Reality Sandwich, I sifted thorugh the piles of pieces I was already working on (some of which have been developed on this site) and put this together. It’s sort of an amalgamated excerpt from my book-in-progress. Here’s a polemical taste:

James Howard Kunstler uses a computer systems metaphor to discuss our built environment, with the networks of the built environment as “hardware” and people’s social roles within those networks as “software,” but that’s where his insight stops. “Computers only assisted predatory corporations in more successfully parasitizing existing value in victimized localities,” he wrote. “They were most efficient at sucking the lifeblood out of complex communities” (The Long Emergency, 2006, p. 221). This latter attitude is part of the problem. Every line we draw between what’s “natural” and what’s “technological” gets crossed (and moved) as our world becomes more and more technologically mediated. Kunstler’s line is closer to the forest where others’ are closer to the fray, but neither a Heideggerian disdain for all technology (he saw no differentiation between atomic bombs and bridges) nor a gadget-headed geekiness will change the reality of the situation. We shape our tools and our tools shape us, as McLuhan put it.

Here’s the full essay.

Many thanks to Daniel Pinchbeck and Ken Jordan for putting this out there. Stay tuned.

Further Posting:


  • Matt said:

    I totally agree about the Madden point. I think we talked about that back when I was playing weekend pickup football in CA. It can be extended to Guitar Hero and Rock Band too. Fun, yes, but it’s infinitely more fun to play guitar in a band in a crowded bar. But I think the point about actually living life vs. video game vicariousness should probably stop short of the Grand Theft Auto series.

    As you may know I’m pretty detatched from just about everything in my life, usually (technically) experiencing some very cool things & adventures, while usually feeling more like a spectator than the participant that I am. I used to assume that it was due to some sort of serial-killerish personality disorder that I needed to actively keep in check. Now I know I can just blame the TV and computers. Yes!

  • sascha70 said:


    Loss of privacy is the primary concern people have with social mapping and other location-based services. While many people try to build a firewall between their real lives and their anonymized on-line personalities, it will be impossible to maintain that separation should they start using location-based services; anonymity becomes thin when your cell phone tells you that you are standing three feet away from “citygirl105″. Knowing someone’s location is a two-way street, and if users want to reap the benefits of finding out where other people are, they will also be forced to share their own locations. People will know where you are, for better or for worse. Parents may embrace systems that track their teenage driver’s location but they should be prepared for the day when that same system, which perhaps their company uses to help coordinate team members that are flying to a convention in another city, can also be used by their boss to follow their movements when they call in sick. (Did you really stay in bed all day…?). ”

    The world as the interface – location data and the mobile web, Jonathan Follett in receiver magazine, Autumn 2008