Mitchell's City of Bits: Commentary and Discussion

Sucking in Signals from the Virtual

Ian Jones

I am interrupted from reading yet another line of Mitchell's wet-dream by my alarm clock. It is ringing at 9 A.M.. That's when I set it for- it is a shame I woke up two hours ago. That has always been my problem with technological augmentations to my own patterns and cycles. It doesn't matter if my wrist watch is connected to my cellular phone, which in turn is connected to the moon, which keeps perfect time. In the race to become increasingly cybernetic, my body can not meet the technology halfway. I will always be of a different mindset than my programmed anticipations. Even if I had set my alarm to go off at 7 A.M., I probably would have protested doggedly, threw the machine against the wall and gone back to sleep for another 9 minutes until it went off again. My point is, with every new convenience and upgrade in our tool kit to face the world with, we will continue to wage our own little battles against becoming programmed tools ourselves.

Yes, we will continue to make ourselves run and work more efficiently, we will undergo robot-assisted surgeries and conduct our business from any given physical location with net access/ cellular phone capabilities. Looking towards that increased efficiency in all things, Mitchell seems to be saying that human to human interaction is no longer necessary for basic functioning in society: Work, consumerism, sexuality, community, and politics can all be performed on the net. Indeed, in Mitchell's vision, the arts and media can be molded to an individual's own tastes. Viewers can interact with the programming on their television screens, choosing the plot, style, characters they will virtually experience. A "Choose Your Own Adventure" type genre comes to mind, and with it the many reasons why I stopped reading such books in the fifth grade. I don't want to read a book to and be the protagonist, I want to read a book and share the author's vision. Everything I use all the forms of media for, be it read a book, surf the 'net, or watch TV, is an attempt to connect with other people. In Mitchell's vision, I no longer have to see anyone else to make my living, but I will increasingly spend the proceeds of said work on "virtual" connections to others, through TV, music, books, and the internet.

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