‘Hey everybody - this is barack’, wrote US President Barack Obama on the social networking space Reddit. ‘Just finished a great rally in Charlottesville, and am looking forward to your questions’.
With the click of button we can now fight poverty, condemn dictators, and occupy... (insert your home town here). Online activist organisation Getup! offers us the chance to support gay marriage and refugees and asylum seekers. CommunityRun even lets us devise our own campaigns. YouTube offers the perfect place for ideas to begin their viral journey. While Facebook provides a community of millions to reach out to.
'The most fertile ground for experimentation is where the real and the virtual blend together... Artists tend to push on the questions that we’ll all be asking years later. And in the process, they often grapple with emerging technologies in unpredicted ways’ (Cacophony).
'We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible...We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society' ('Facebook Is Making Us Lonely' by Stephen Marche).
In an age when everyone is looking at the screen in their hand, how can we find time to look up and notice those around us? To connect with other people, form friendships or even... fall in love? For many people online dating and social media sites provide opportunities to bump into the right (or wrong) kind of person.
Author of 'WTF Is Up With My Love Life?!' Jessica Massa says that people are increasingly engaging in techno-romance: 'the rampant use of technologies to cultivate and explore romantic, sexual and flirtatious interactions, and even relationships'.
'The digital and physical are increasingly meshed [they] dialectically co-construct each other...This is opposed to the notion that the Internet is like the Matrix, where there is a “real” (Zion) that you leave when you enter the virtual space (the Matrix) - an outdated perspective as Facebook is increasingly real and our physical world increasingly digital' (Social Media commentator Nathan Jurgenson).
‘Heaven knows, I'm not comparing the internet to a hurtling death trap. But the internet has its destructive side just as the automobile does ... As with the car, criticism of the internet's shortcomings, risks, and perils has been silenced, or ignored’ (Lee Siegel) .
The cyborg-ish figure of the terminator (the T-800) blurred the boundaries between human and machine, hope and apprehension. Arnie came back in the sequels hardwired to sacrifice himself for the preferred life form (humans) and this was reassuring: machines know who their masters are.
The sci-fi series Caprica picked these ideas apart with a ‘rise of the machines’ type of plot. Fantasy and reality are woven together as characters interact in a virtual world. This machine-human narrative of the 21st century looks to unsettle rather than reassure us. What if the machines don't come back to save us? What if they decide they are better than us?
'Amidst the swirling maelstrom of technological progress so often heralded as the imminent salvation to all our ills, it can be necessary to remind ourselves that humanity sits at the centre, not technology... It's difficult to separate us from our creations but it's imperative that we examine this odd relationship' (Chris Arkenburg).
It's been called a fad with a disloyal fan base and a home for 'generic blathering', yet around the world people are signing up and logging into Twitter. With somewhere between 200 and 500 million users - numbers are debated - Twitter has the ultimate 'send to all' option. This is a place in which the technologically-savvy and journalists can engage in new patterns of communication - witnesses tweet from the scene, while journalists have the opportunity to uncover breaking news from their desks.