Herds of Accuras

November 13, 2007

Jeremy Ettinghausen just announced Penguin’s new Facebook page over at the Penguin blog with a particularly apposite and self-effacing quote:

“Bohemias. Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilization in the two previous centuries. They were where industrial civilization went to dream. A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternate societal strategies … But they became extinct.”
“We started picking them before they could ripen. A certain crucial growing period was lost, as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious. Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters. They went the way of geography in general…”
— William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties

I loathe Facebook (yes, I have a profile), and the new product pages are one of the clumsiest, least elegant, most obnoxious ideas to hit the net for a while – proclaiming yourself a fan of a brand, much like all the tools driving branded sports cars around Second Life. You can build yourself a rocket ship! Why are you driving an Accura? That’s pretty much how I feel about dragging corporate entities into social spaces.

But that’s clearly a personal view that isn’t reflected in any way by the vast majority of FB users, who will in all likelihood plaster their homepages with the same blinking corporate tattoos that their supposed inferiors on Myspace have been pasting up for years. Because – and this is what I’m afraid of – Gibson was off by one remove: it’s people not marketers who are commodifying their spaces. People prefer to feed on this stuff than build their own glittering backwaters. A colossal failure of imagination is occurring, but it’s in our own heads, not in that of some ingenious, impersonal, infernal marketeer.

Where’s my goddamn rocketship?

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