Check out my article on the evolution of peep culture.
The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2013 is “selfie.” Great, you’re thinking, time for the equivalent of a cyber shrug: quick break from work spent googling the suddenly ubiquitous lists of “Seattle selfies of the year,” “top celebrity selfies” and “selfie dos and don’ts.” Even five years ago, these kinds of pronouncements seemed far more revealing. In 2008 Websters Dictionary gave “overshare” word-of-the-year status. It is, they gushed, “a verb and a noun” and “a new word for an old habit made astonishingly easy by modern technology.”
Hey all, I’ve got a piece online at TheGuardian.com about embracing the apocalyptic future. Please give it a read and let me know what you think!
Here’s the first little bit of it…
This weekend the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire will be home to Uncivilisation 2013, which describes itself as “a gathering of people searching for answers to questions about our collective future in a rapidly changing and depleting world”. At Uncivilisation about 400 people are expected to attend sessions including a wild-food foraging workshop, a talk on moving beyond a monetary-based economy, and a ceremony of singers and storytellers leading the group in a “liturgy of loss”.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately. I’ve got two daughters. The youngest turned two this spring, an occasion that gave me the opportunity to carve out the mental space to start a new writing project and reflect on what the world is going to look like in 40 years, when she’s my age.
SEX AND DEATH: A NIGHT OF READINGS AND MUSICFeaturing music from: Terry Clement, Gregory Pepper and Isaac Paris
Featuring readings by: Liz Worth, Joey Comeau, Natalie Zina Walschots, Hal Niedzviecki and Aaron Manczyk
Hosted by Lindsay Gibb and Alison Lang
At Creatures Creating (822 Dundas St. West)
Wednesday June 12, the year of our Lord 2013
Terry Clement is a psychedelic comedian who focuses on sex, death and whimsy.
This year, Clement will debut his first solo show, “Din Times 8″ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and will appear at the Bestival Music Festival in England.
Gregory Pepper: Pinball pop music from Guelph, Ontario with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Pepper will offer up some solo renditions of his catchy odes to death with a dash of sex.
Issac Paris is a veteran of large music festivals and tiny dingy bars in Alaska and has written for burlesque shows, performed in both the fiercely competitive New York city comedy scene and the welcoming world of public education and libraries.
Liz Worth is an author and performance poet. Her first book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, gives an in-depth account of Toronto’s punk scene. She is also the author of the poetry collection Amphetamine Heart. Her next book, PostApoc, will be released in October.
Joey Comeau is best known for writing the text of the webcomic A Softer World, and for his novels Lockpick Pornography and Overqualified.
Aaron Manczyk is one third of the Toronto based art collective Family Contact. In early 2011 he independently published his first graphic novel No Nookie in the North and in 2012 released the erotic thriller Cum Lung.
Natalie Zina Walschots is a music writer and poet. She writes the column “Postcards” for the Toronto Standard, a series of postcard-length poetic album reviews. Natalie’s second book of poetry, DOOM: Love Poems For Supervillains, was published by Insomniac Press in the spring of 2012.
Hal Niedzviecki is the founder and publisher of Broken Pencil and the author of 8 books including The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors and the short story collection Look Down, This is Where it Must Have Happened.
– See more at: http://www.brokenpencil.com/news/broken-pencil-and-nxne-present-sex-and-death#sthash.gOB5TXk0.dpuf
Thursday May 23rd, 7:30-9:30 Mississauga Civic Centre.Register for the lecture HERE.
Talk description: This talk will look at the past, present and future of self publishing. The history of self publishing will be used to provide context for the current debates around the rise of e-book self publishing as a viable approach for writers. The various methods of self publishing that have developed over the last two centuries will be explained, explored and demonstrated. Models to be explored will include zines, chapbooks, books and ebooks as well as some aspects of self-marketing including blogs, media and social media. There will be a question and answer session following the talk. Hal Niedzviecki is celebrated author, journalist and co-founder/editor of Broken Pencil magazine. His most recent book is Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened (City Lights, 2011).
April 10, 2013
Please share this with possible participants.
Hello, my name is Hal Niedzviecki. I am looking for eight people to participate in a focus group session on the topic of the experiences of recent university or college graduates in the Toronto area.
I am a Toronto-based author and researcher, author of eight books about individuality, pop culture and technology. This focus group research will be applied to an upcoming project I am currently developing.
I am looking for university or college graduates ages 25-30. Participants must have completed a degree program. Participants must be willing to openly discuss their post-graduation experiences including issues such as career, relationships, consumer habits and other issues related to post-graduation.
The focus group session will take place in downtown Toronto in the College St. and Beverley St. area near the University of Toronto. This area is easily accessible by public transit. The session will take place on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening in May from 7-9pm. All participants will receive a $70 honorarium upon completing the focus group.
Those interested in taking part in the focus group should email firstname.lastname@example.org with an email stating their name, age, contact phone number, date of graduation and the name of the program and institution they have received a degree from.
For more information about the work of Hal Niedzviecki, please visit www.alongcametomorrow.com.
I’m on a panel discussion this Friday – details here – at the Toronto Reference Library. I’ll be sitting down with Stephen Henighan Jesse Hirsh and moderator Mark Medley to talk about new and varied forms of censorship beyond simply banning or burning books. The event is put on by PEN Canada, the Canadian chapter of an organization I’m proud to be a member of. This is going to be a very interesting conversation and for those of you who can’t make it, I’ll try and post some of the highlights next week. But for those of you who can, I urge you to come on down and join the fun.
What’s really exciting about this panel is that it covers a topic I’ve long written about and thought about, though primarily as a lone voice in the wilderness. And now an organization like PEN is taking it up. This conversation is long overdue. I don’t want any spoilers to dissuade people from coming out but some of the issues we’ll be addressing include: *Why are publishers dropping so many authors? *Can self publishing fill the gap? *Can decisions multinational corporations make based on profit agendas be described as censorship? *There are more books than ever, so why does it feel like the book is disappearing? Stay tuned people, answers (or at least opinions) on all these questions coming soon…
It was a bloody, weird year in peep culture. There was scandal, murder, two suicides, a pregnancy and a monkey. For those of you who are new to my work, peep culture is the phrase I coined in my book The Peep Diaries to describe the transition from pop culture to peep culture. In pop culture, we were “entertained” by anointed celebrities who performed scripted entertainments. In the age of peep culture, more and more we derive our “entertainment” from the unscripted events that occur in other people’s lives. In 2012 some of the biggest news stories of the year – stories with very serious implications and consequences – turned out to be events driven by our growing hunger for peep entertainment. And so, without further ado, here’s my top 5 peep moments of 2012.
#5 Darwin the Ikea Monkey
Wow, we went crazy about the the seven-month-old coat wearing Rhesus Macaque found wandering around a Toronto Ikea. Media reports circled the world and Ikea Monkey went viral almost as fast as the owner of the beast was relieved of her pet by animal control. Speaking of the owner, in order to keep the story alive newspapers resorted to headlines exploring the owner’s deep relationship to the little guy. ABC News: “IKEA Monkey’ Owner Vows to Fight for Primate’s Return”; Globe and Mail: “Owner of Darwin the Ikea monkey may be able to visit him at sanctuary”; The Telegraphin the UK: “Ikea monkey seen at home in YouTube videos”; and finally The Toronto Sun‘s awesome: “Ikea monkey owner: ‘He’s my son'”. To save us time, Gawker quickly assembled “The Best of Ikea Monkey, The Meme” but judging by the rising tide of hits on YouTube videos like the one featuring Darwin and owner brushing their teeth, I’m guessing we prefer the real Darwin to his photoshopped specter.
#4 New York Post Subway Killing
The New York Post decides to go with the most horrible cover possible. There’s only one reason to run this photo on the cover or, really, at all. This is not news. This is peep. A guy gets pushed into the subway tracks by a mentally unstable panhandler just as a train is coming into the station. A a photographer starts snapping photos. As hundreds of thousands of commentators have noted, nobody – not the photographer or anyone else on the scene – tries to help. One of the characteristics of peep culture is passivity – we watch and we record instead of intervening.
#3 The Life and Death of Amanda Todd
The public did not care about what this teenager living in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia was going through until she killed herself. Once she did, the video she made telling her story took off. 6 million views, 100 thousand plus comments and counting. The whole story is steeped in the values (or lack thereof) of peep culture. In grade 7 she’s on a chat room amusing herself and a guy tells her to flash her breasts. So she does. Later on, someone (perhaps the same guy) starts circulating the resulting still image. He even starts a Facebook page with the image as the profile picture. Lots of people get a kick out of this and Todd’s journey through depression, anxiety and multiple suicide attempts begins. Despite switching schools and moving cities multiple times, the picture and the cruelty of her peers follows her where ever she goes. Much of this cruelty manifests itself in social media – comments about her on Facebook, on blogs, on the videos she posted to YouTube. Peep is cruelest in the hothouse of adolescent culture. Todd was probably right in thinking that most of the young people who encountered her during her short life thought she was a loser. After all, they had the photographic evidence and they just seemed to want more and more. She wrote in her now infamous video that when she was attacked outside her school by a group of her peers, “kids filmed it, I was all alone and left on the ground.” In death, Todd is a peep superstar and the poster girl for global anti-bully campaigns. Everyone wants to use this girl’s story. The peep continues.
#2 The Petraeus Affair
Oh yeah, this one has everything. Threatening emails, flirtatious emails, lurid emails, all kinds of emails! Throw in twin sisters ready and willing to use the rapacious media to advance their cause (whatever it may be) plus the head of the CIA and you’ve got the #2 peep saga of 2012! So, in a nutshell, we have Florida socialite and army “social liaison” Jill Kelley who is receiving hostile emails from Paula Broadwell, who wrote the biography of General David Petraeus, who had recently been appointed head of the CIA. Kelley asks the FBI to look into these threatening emails. Somehow the FBI finds evidence of an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell. The scandal blows up, Petreaus is forced to resign, and the media goes crazy. Headlines like ABC‘s “Petraeus Scandal: Socialite Jill Kelley Fights Back”; CNN’s “After Petraeus scandal, Broadwell grapples with ‘normal life’” and the Toronto Star‘s”David Petraeus scandal: Jill Kelley’s twin hires lawyer Gloria Allred” obscure the real issue: that this isn’t a scandal at all. In fact, it’s barely even news. But it is definitely entertaining and, better yet, it’s pure peep.
The number one peep of 2012 is of course the pregnancy of Kate Middleton. Or is it the suicide of the nurse who transferred the call to the other nurse who told a couple of Australian DJs that Kate was improving in regards to the retching? Or is it the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge is set to miss the UK premiere of The Hobbit? And guess what: Kate is having twins! (Maybe…) First of all, let’s look at the prank call situation. Pranking has become more and more a stable of pop-peep culture. So these Australian DJs call up the hospital where Kate is getting treatment for severe morning sickness (a massive global news story in and of itself). Pretending to be the Queen and Charles, they are patched through by nurse Jacintha Saldanha to another nurse who updates them on Kate’s condition. This becomes a massive media event. Saldanha, a mother of two, kills herself even though she did nothing wrong. We’ll never really know what caused her to take her own life, but it seems obvious that feeling responsible for damaging the hospital’s reputation and being at the center of a peep frenzy just overwhelmed her. Of course in peep culture terms, Jacintha’s death is just a sideshow to the main attraction: Pregnant Kate. And once the kids are born, the whole fervor can start over again. The ROYAL BIRTH is already a contender for #1 peep of 2013, twins, DJ prank calls and Morrissey‘s opinions notwithstanding.
I wrote this piece for the Globe and Mail newspaper. You can read it in its entirety here. As is always the case in these debates, people will generally focus on the technology and the likelihood. That’s to be expected, of course. But since there is little or no chance that we will see mind-to-machine transfer in the next 100 years, in a way the secondary question is far more fascinating: Why is the mainstream so eager to promote and advance this idea? The comments attached to the Globe piece so far focus, as expected, on the issue of whether or not it can be done. We need to change that conversation so that we are more aware of how the dialogue and rhetoric around these utopian technological ideas are permeating society.
From the beginning of the Globe piece:
The most remarkable thing about Ray Kurzweil is not that he is convinced that he will never have to die. It’s that his ideas have gone mainstream.
He has just released a new book, the modestly titled, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. Meanwhile, over the past six years, the 64-year-old American futurist and inventor has been on the cover of Time magazine and has been the subject of a feature-length documentary. Forbes magazine dubbed him “the ultimate thinking machine.” He has 19 honorary doctorates and commands speaking fees of as much as $50,000.
All this stature stems primarily from his conviction that by 2040 we will be able to transfer our minds to machines.
As the promotional text proclaimed on his 2006 book The Singularity Is Near, “Our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today.” This will give birth to the Singularity – a time of total transformation in which we will merge with our computers, cast off our bodies, extend our lives indefinitely and have near-infinite intelligence at our disposal. (Mr. Kurzweil didn’t invent the idea, but he certainly popularized it.)
I reach Mr. Kurzweil at his home in Massachusetts and ask him if the predictions he first made in 2006 are still accurate. “We’re very much on that course,” he tells me. “We are right on the curve.” The curve is a graph showing, as he explains it to me, “the law of accelerating returns, the exponential growth of every form of information technology.”