Earlier this spring, I got into a ferocious argument when a joke about “personal brands” turned into a two-hour debate about whether we are all Kardashians now. The obsession with public identity performance in the digital sphere has supposedly made for a generation of solipsists and inauthentic re-enactors, each with a pithy 140-character Twitter bio.
It’s an argument I’ve encountered frequently, particularly among those nostalgic for an imagined golden age of authentic identity divorced from the need fromperformance. In “Creating the Self in the Digital Age: Young People and Mobile Social Media,” Toshie Takahashi of Waseda University seems to support that premise. She cites Japanese teenagers who use Facebook to project an image ofreajuu, or living life to the fullest, mainly by uploading photos and tagging each other, suggesting that Facebook is, if not responsible for the phenomenon, nonetheless a prime avenue for its intensification.
The great circadian disruption through which we have lived since the invention of the electric light is bad for our physical and mental health. The 24-hour society will present further risks. Exactly what, though, should be the subject of public debate – preferably after a good night’s sleep.
In this panoramic, at times jaw-dropping book, Stephen Graham describes how in recent years the built environment around the world, both above and below ground, has become dramatically more vertical – and more unequal. From miles-deep gold mines in South Africa to oligarchs’ basements in Belgravia, from American schemes for lethal military satellites to Bangkok’s elevated railway for the wealthy, the Skytrain, Graham lays out a landscape where architecture reflects and reinforces divisions with ever greater brazenness.
Many of his examples are as dystopian as anything in the bleak prophecies of JG Ballard. A resident of a “luxury fortified apartment complex” in Rio de Janeiro watches tracer bullets, fired by feuding drug dealers in a favela far below. “They are beautiful!” she says. “We have a free firework display almost every day!”