Monday, February 25, 2013

Popcorn Brain and the Oscars

I don't watch the Oscars, for pretty much the same reason I can't bring myself to watch the State of the Union address.   It's just too long and ritualistic, following a form and pattern that can't sustain my interest.  I find it tedious, no matter how the Academy attempts to make it edgy and entertaining.

But I like film as a medium, and do have some interest in the outputs of that long, long evening.

This year, I approached it in the same way I "watched" the State of the Union.   Meaning, I didn't watch it at all, but followed it on Twitter instead.  Putting it through that filter is fascinating, for a variety of reasons.

The variety of opinion was striking, particularly now that I've massively expanded my Twitter feed as part of my Lenten social media discipline.   According to my now intentionally diverse feed, Seth Macfarlane killed it/flailed miserably/was hysterical/was unwatchably cruel.   Shirley Bassey nailed her performance/was consistently flat.   Somewhere in there, there was a real event, but the twitterverse  was all over the place in interpreting it.

It was lighting up, though, and consistently.  That's not always the case, as the thousand plus folks I follow are wildly random.  But here was a shared experience that seemed to be picked up by enough of those that I've randomly added to my feed that it became a common theme.

Not all of us were lighting up.  The international portion of my feed really couldn't have cared less, reminding me that this is a North American phenomenon.  The tweeps who only tweep about one thing ever were still doing their thing, telling the world about the one thing they know how to talk about.  Typically, that's 1) themselves or, given my feed 2) Jesus.  Interlaced with the trending comments about the Oscars were the usual scripture quotations, snippets of song lyrics, self-indulgent teens telling me how they feel right at this very moment, and incoherent splurges of neurotransmitter twitterdata (omg @drzapper72 @rpgomalley t.co/Xy7z442s #lefreak!).

Following the Oscars on twitter was like watching popcorn pop.  Or rather, like watching the global popcorn brain of the human macroorganism respond to what it is seeing.  "This is happening now!  Now this is happening!  Hey, look at that!  Squirrel!" Over the last several weeks, my strong impression of this social network has been that it's amazingly neural, and watching it last night...at a period of high activity and high attention...only confirmed that.  

Years ago, at the dawn of the internet, I postulated in a Wired Magazine article that the internet was just the nascent structure of our evolution into a macroorganism.  This was a full decade before the arrival of social media, and Lord have mercy, does that feel more true now.

Encountering massive, culturally-shared experiences inside Twitter, I am reminded of nothing quite so much as the terse, staccato pulses of cells splashing out 140 character loads of virtual seratonin and acetylcholine.

It's fascinating.  


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