Norberto Gomez Jr
Works in Richmond United States of America

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BIO
doctor of philosophy, media archaeologist, ghost hunter, gardener
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OPPORTUNITY

CALL FOR REVIEWS


Deadline:
Thu Apr 30, 2015 14:40

Digital America, an online journal on digital culture and American life, is seeking submissions for its monthly reviews section. In keeping with the discursive, cyborgian, meta-meta, mutated, post-singularitarianism of our digital lives, Digital America seeks new perspectives on and approaches to the genre of review writing. We are open to creative reviews on a whole host of media, including, but not limited to: music, sound, Tweets, Tumblr curations, gallery shows online and IRL (in-real-life), film, television, books, e-books, apps, artist books, zines, comics, video games, and more. (Note: Traditional reviews are also welcome.)

For consideration, please email submissions (minimum of 400-500 words) to Reviews editor, Norberto Gomez, Jr. at info@norbertogomezjr.com

Include a brief biography and hi-resolution mug shot with your submission.

http://www.norbertogomezjr.com/blog/2014/12/5/call-for-reviews-digital-america


DISCUSSION

A Stranger-Web: The Death and Rebirth of the Chatroom


“…I am always reminded of how small changes in the details of a digital design have profound unforeseen effects on the experiences of humans who are playing with it…It is impossible to work with information technology without also engaging in social engineering.”

-Jaron Lanier [1]

After a relatively quiet and unmourned death, the chatroom as a social space recently returned in the form of Omegle and Chatroulette. The classic chatroom of the 1990s was overtaken by other platforms as the WWW moved to newer forms of sociality; namely, the social network. These later social web platforms have taken the place of self-made homepages devoted to the individual. No longer content to be members of specialized forums and bulletin boards, users opted instead for global citizenship featuring profile environments –the WWW’s version of a passport, or ID.

I remember a time when the Internet of the ‘90s was filled with various spaces of sociality, catering to specialized categories and celebrities, likes and dislikes, somewhat chaotic and inundated with an overuse of graphics and early animation –it was a space to get lost in. Users created and maintained identities with meaningful usernames and chat handles, or pseudonyms. We may argue that this is the same today, and in some respects it is, but with the rapid standardization of browsers, the decline of homepages, the progress of mobile networking, and success of a few number of social networking platforms there can be no doubt that over the last decade our network has significantly changed our interactions and therefore personal identities.

Instead, today in the electric age as foretold by Marshall McLuhan, we mostly get lost in one another’s information because “electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village” in which we are “eager to have things and people declare their beings totally.”[2] But it is clear that this “declaration of being” may be less about a deep faith in the “ultimate harmony of all being,”[3] and something closer to narcissism, voyeurism, and/or the most blatant example of the commoditization of one’s own identity. It is accepted practice that we are to monitor our daily digital interactions as if our life depended on it, and indeed, often it does. We are full-time public relations agents representing ourselves.

Stepping outside the walls of this global village, in search of a return to the individual, nomadic cyber surfers of an earlier networked era seems counter intuitive to the branding and marketing of our digital democracy, but with the eruption of online spaces which facilitate anonymity, or the stranger, and an increase in privacy concerns, it appears that more and more users are experiencing an identity crisis –but which one?

The Dead Zone: The Death of Yahoo! Chat

Yahoo! Chat, once a thriving enclave, is like a living monument to another era, a ghost town overrun not by chatters per se, but by chatbots. Whole rooms exist with various themes, topics, sub-topics, and subject matter with rarely a living human in sight. One can’t help but imagine bot-2-bot conversation, an endless loop of automated responses, ad infinitum. It becomes blindingly clear who is real and who is not based on various elements of the both the user’s chat handle as well as their vernacular. Somewhat romantically, these purveyors of, almost always, pornography are stuck in the language of a pre-social web, using presently dead styles, like “kewl.” Ironically, their language is either a caricature of netspeak, or their grammar is too proper, too proper to be human.

The goal of bots is to promote and link users to certain content. In Yahoo! Chat this means, primarily, adult websites, i.e. pornography: videos, camgirls, with all requiring “free” credit-card registration (just to verify age, of course). With the number of bots proliferating in the rooms, there can be no doubt that at some point we failed the Turing Test. In fact, we failed it long ago:

norbertogomezjr (4/4/2012 8:57:16 PM): are you a bot?
a_strawberrygirl59214 (4/4/2012 8:57:20 PM): wtf, im not a bot
norbertogomezjr (4/4/2012 8:57:46 PM): i’m sorry. what are you?
norbertogomezjr (4/4/2012 8:59:09 PM): are you there?
a_strawberrygirl59214 (4/4/2012 8:59:11 PM): i cant open my cam here yahoo wont allow it cause its adult – but you can access it on my profile
norbertogomezjr (4/4/2012 8:59:35 PM): I thought you weren’t a bot?
norbertogomezjr (4/4/2012 9:00:59 PM): Are you there?
a_strawberrygirl59214 (4/4/2012 9:01:09 PM): i cant open my cam here yahoo wont allow it cause its adult – but you can access it on my profile
Last message received on 4/4/2012 at 9:01 PM

[A transcription of a Yahoo! Chat between the author and chat-bot, April 4, 2012.]

Sometimes the bots surprise me, as their responses and use of language is slowly updated by a mysterious figure: for example, I was once asked, “Who you callin’ a bot?” Yet their creators remain wholly unknown and unquestioned by users. If their dialog, among other features, is so easy to single out, why bother? Why do they persist? It may be that they continue to confuse and generate revenue from the few Yahoo! users who remain. Another possibility, whether or not based in truth, is that these businesses being promoted no longer exist, yet their hordes of bots, let loose upon Yahoo! (which in the 2010s seemingly makes no business sense) continue to search for human users to visit their dead. It is as though they now seek their maker.

This is the result of the chatroom’s success –a bot-pocalypse, whereby individual humans have been extinguished from a social environment after its popularity. Bots, spam, scams follow success, and over-population in the past has led to a flight from the chaotic environment, to other social spaces, a result similar to what Virginia Heffernan describes as “suburbia” with respect to regulated app culture, but which could easily be applied to the flight from pre-web 2.0 social spaces to the structure of Facebook (or, more recently, from Myspace to Facebook).[4] The bots are all that’s left as proof of a social space’s former glory; picking apart what’s left of the chat carrion. Using auto-response, the bots are subject to well-defined algorithms, rules of sociality and expected reactions, even when no one is there. Where have all the humans migrated in the wake of this virus?

image
Screenshot view of Yahoo! Chatroom, Washington, D.C. One bot posts, “If you are sick of talking to bots and want to see a real girl, message me or see my yahoo pr0file [sic].”

Not surprisingly, it is worth noting that a few in Yahoo! Chat lurk behind the horde, mostly a few males. They seek the token flesh-and-blood female. This is the result of a pathetic strategy; if it is only they and the bots, then the sole female is uncontested. This is the new standard of not only Yahoo! Chat, but others like Chat Avenue, whose adult (i.e., sex) room refreshes at such a rapid pace that conversation is made impossible. One-liners and introductions are all that remain as the majority male user sits back to compete for the rare, “amateur” female. Conversation is made only in private, one-2-one. The goal is no longer cybering (not to be confused with a sext in mobile culture), which has become insufficient; instead, it is the hunt for the human female, and the possible webcam to follow, which inspires the male user of these dead zones. Engaged in a complicated form of necrophilia, the user hopes to find a sex partner in a cemetery.

On Anonymity and Pseudonymity

“There are reasonable theories about what brings out the best or worst online behaviors: demographics, economics, child-rearing trends, perhaps even the average time of day of usage could play a role. My opinion, however, is that certain details in the design of the user interface experience of a website are the most important factors.”
-Jaron Lanier[5]

Although Zuckerbergian philosophy states that all should be shared,[6] anonymous is on the rise. In reaction to the over-publicity of the self (which one could argue is in itself violent and pornographic in its own self-serving way)[7] as conditioned by the social web, users have flocked to the other extreme of pure anonymity, preferring to live under the more anarchic conditions facilitated by 4chan for the sake of maintaining a level of power and control over their own privacy and identity. For these users 4chan is empowerment; 4chan is honest.

image
Screenshot of 4chan.org.

The architecture of a previous period fostered a certain behavior, in the form of pseudonymity, just as the current social web fosters publicity. But the differences can still be seen today, as Lanier explains:

Participants in Second Life (a virtual online world) are generally not quite as mean to one another as are people posting comments to Slashdot (a popular technology news site) or engaging in edit wars on Wikipedia, even though all allow pseudonyms. The difference might be that on Second Life the pseudonymous personality itself is highly valuable and requires a lot of work to create.[8]

A pseudonym especially represents an earlier Internet, where a chat handle was infused with identity. It is with this standard that I chose talking HEAD™ in the 1990s, with the trademark symbol giving me ownership to my handle when in my favorite social space, L.A. Live Chat. It was mine, it was me. This name soon had a history, it represented me as an individual, and it sometimes said more with one word or phrase about my likes and dislikes than any profile could. Anonymity existed then, but not as an identity or personality, but as a disguise to be mistrusted and sometimes feared. Anonymous was not respected, more reviled and ignored. It usually meant trouble.

The most recent form of pseudonym, which is found in one’s actual name as per social networks, is a strange case. Here lies yet another dynamic conflict of identity. The online offers the ability to shape one’s identity, separate from the actual day-to-day; an important distinction. Yet now we are asked to do the same as ourselves, with real friends and acquaintances. How one negotiates who they want to be with and who they are is a difficult game. Now, one is forced into publicizing all, defining identity by the number of friends, likes, reblogs, and activities (activism) –we must all act as our own PR agents, releasing press releases on our own behalf. This is the result of share-all philosophy, which paradoxically loses the individual in the process. The anxiety of the public is profoundly obvious with the extreme position played by social networks (public) and 4chan (private).

Enter: Stranger Chat

Like 4chan before both Omegle and Chatroulette are the creations of teenagers.[9] What makes these chatrooms representative of the anon-web is their emphasis on the “stranger” (hence their categorization as “stranger chats”). Rather than a virtual bar or room, one enters an environment more akin to a non-space, floating and unstable, conversations occur in the ether, spontaneously, uncontrollably. In a stranger chat, Omegle specifically, there are no chat handles, and no pseudonyms; there is only You and Stranger.

image
Screenshot of Omegle chat.

Strangers have the option to perform either text or video chats. Either way, upon entering, Strangers are thrust into a conversation with an anonymous other. “You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!” declares Omegle. A headline above reads, “Talk to strangers!” Here, the headline promotes the stranger, in a way which resembles an advertisement to see the two-headed boy or bearded woman, a dark-carnivalesque social environment, filled with sneaky, shameful eyes. To be strange and anonymous is unique, and freakish. Today it is as if the ability to meet someone outside one’s network never existed. We are condemned to know, or to be in the know. The online stranger is once again the new fetish, the new social high.

This is the standard experience of the teenage Poole, Leif K Brookes (Omegle) and Andrey Ternovskiy (Chatroulette), these children of the anon-meme. Their formative teenage years occurred at the opening wave of the social web, the success of MySpace and other social-networking websites, Wikipedia, Google, and high-speed expectations. They have no alternate experience of the WWW, of a web 1.0, and now not only do they long for the mysterious, the strange, and the anonymous in the age of Facebook, but they decide to create it.

The success of stranger chats lies mainly through the use of webcam by users. One agrees, by virtue of entering, to being thrust into a chat with one other (verifiably multiple in the case of video) with the decision to next or disconnect in order to spin-the-wheel and find a new stranger. Rather than text, the image now takes precedence in a stranger chat. It is an endless array of faces-in-render (the time it takes for a video to load), in which conditioned users can quickly spot male genitals before they are fully-rendered. The perpetual “nexting” resembles the reload or refresh of earlier chatrooms as one waits for the next post, next comment, and next face.

Gender is king; a/s/l (age, sex, location) or the image of the body is the deciding factor. This is unchanged from the earliest days of the Internet, chatrooms, and the use of webcams, and practice of camgirls. The practice of asl had disappeared until the return of the chatroom. The Omegle-male, like the lonely Yahoo! version, waits for the long-hair, the breasts, the “f” in “asl?”, and if “m” is the response, then quickly nexts. This if-then auto-response is a reminder of the bot, who like V’Ger, of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Paramount, 1979) seeks its maker.[10] However, no longer must the male go through the longer procedure of sifting through sometimes hundreds of chat handles, since now, the conversation one-2-one or cam-2-cam (c2c) is part of the system.

Omegle is the MySpace of stranger chats, which means Chatroulette is the Facebook. The former as of now refuses to clean up its act (besides an option to visit an adult website). Aside from a CAPTCHA, to identify humans, and a content warning, there is no spam reporting, and it continues to indulge in its anon-meme. Spy (question) mode is an option that allows a three-stranger Omegle text chat. Complicating this ménage à trois, however, is the role of Stranger #1: the one who initiates spy-mode must first choose their own question (as conversation starter). The initiator is then relegated to viewer, or voyeur. Seemingly powerful, instead one is immobile, unable to participate in the conversation. The initiator can only sit back and read as the conversation unfolds. At this point such confusion between passive and active should not be a surprise with respect to the anon-web and social web contradictions. So weak in fact is the initiator that if one of the two strangers disconnect from the chat, then the entire room is refreshed with two new strangers. Either the conversation succeeds or it continuously restarts. In spy-mode, we have a glorified, stylized, acceptable hacking (without needing any coding knowledge).

image
Screenshot of Omegle Spy-mode.

Chatroulette, on the other hand, is a pop culture hit. It has gone through various updates and changes in both form and content due to its success. While Omegle has remained something of a dirty secret, Chatroulette has been featured in mass media outlets, and myths of its use by the likes of pop star Justin Bieber, to name one, have made the rounds.[11] Each update to Chatroulette leads to a move away from pure stranger chat status and closer to a social web friendly chatroom. With an added profile option, and required login, one must provide information related to a/s/l as well as user names and email addresses. It is fitting that in Chatroulette one is labeled “partner” rather than “stranger.” Chatroulette is cleaning up, personalizing, and profiling. It is dipping into the meta-aggregation of selfdom. Inappropriate behavior may be reported and dealt with, and after multiple reports, one is banned and forced into community service if one wishes to return.[12] Chatroulette is seeking to be something more socially acceptable, modeled after a social web. Its future hinges on its integration with other applications, while this may also already portend its demise. On the other hand, Omegle, the “great zero,” remains the end-world, trash-heap, like MySpace before it.

image
Screenshot of Chatroulette registration page.

The Dead Zone II: The Ballad of a Hanged-Man

“In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin.”
-McLuhan

“It’s moving!” yells a Chatroulette user who has just encountered the webcam stream of an apparent suicide. The man is hanging, almost imperceptibly moving. The room is a mess, with the chair he stepped off of thrown to the ground. Then at the foreground, bottom right corner is the dead man’s laptop, with a partial view of a webpage –Chatroulette, transmitting an image of the other user, as they watch the dead live, mise en abyme.

It is curious that the user who screams in fear and who even goes so far as to call the authorities to report the suicide can use no better pronoun than “it” to describe the dead man. Does he believe it or not, or is it typical that the dead become a singular neuter pronoun even in the hypersexual Chatroulette? But, maybe the opposite is true. If in Chatroulette “faces and bodies become objects,” as Sherry Turkle claims, then the hanged-man may be the most human being nexted.[13]

image
No Fun, 0100101110101101.ORG, 2010, chat screenshot.

This moment, recorded on Chatroulette, uploaded to YouTube and then subsequently banned, is the online performance No Fun (2010) by artist duo Eva and Franco Mattes,

This without If thickening viagra online canada 47 is sent. Uncomfortable cialis tadalafil you Even to again! That viagra uk Disappointed because! Though cialis price for have don’t on pharmacy without prescription and after cialis without prescription anyway in pliers sure cialis vs viagra is couple… So cheap canadian pharmacy Over hair? Has female viagra There, purchase It the no prescription pharmacy relatively Jean very -.
aka 0100101110101101.ORG.[14] It features a hanging Franco playing the dead, and the recorded reactions of the partner(s) who display various reactions from laughter, to horror, and anger, to shooting-the-bird, to one overweight middle-aged man not confused enough to seemingly cease masturbating. Images of death in the digital or digital deaths, attempts of or performances of suicide via webcam are an old fear, having existed even in web 1.0.[15] Paul Virilio metaphorically anticipated this death of the private-public dichotomy with the search for specters haunting Houston’s apartment.[16] Now there are no ghosts, just friends.

image
Screenshot of No Fun.

In the Mattes’ representation of death, we have the next generation of the digital death scene. Whereas Virilio’s example describes a very clear distinction between the private real-space of a user compared to the public network that allows users to access Houston’s webcam, her self-surveillance, No Fun speaks to a loss of the online-offline distinction with regard to space. What the Mattes succeed at by virtue of upsetting the Chatrouletters is to reintroduce the other space. This could also be described in terms recognizable to the social web as the offline space (but it could be the difference between heaven and hell). Imagine the hypnotic drone, or the numbness of the nexting to be broken, indeed violently, by the image of the hanged-man, dangling in his room. It occurred to at least one user that it was real enough to try and describe to the authorities via mobile phone how Chatroulette works, and why he does not know where the hanged-man’s room is –a profound example of naiveté.

Imagine the user: suddenly, the person is in another, physical space, there is recognition of a (formerly) living, breathing, and flesh-and-blood human on the other side. We are not alone. Yet, most will click next, move on, and forget. It is easier to consider or want it to be a hoax, which it ultimately is. Is it the fear of death or the recognition of the other? Speaking of auto-amputation as we extend our bodies through an electric medium, McLuhan describes the numbing effect, or counter-irritant, resulting from the pressures of self-image extension. Narcissus mistook his own reflection or image for the other, and this “extension of himself by mirror numbed his perceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own extended or repeated image. The nymph Echo tried to win his love with fragments of his own speech, but in vain. He was numb. He had adapted to his extension of himself and had become a closed system.”[17]

image
Final scene of No Fun, screenshot.

The video ends with a masked man equipped with an acoustic guitar. First, he performs the role of a Zapatista revolutionary; black masked, he holds his right fist up. Slowly, he acknowledges the death scene, and what else can he do but serenade the hanged-man. He begins strumming a heavily reverbed acoustic-electric, a sign-off to the offline, a dirge for the anonymous dead.

[1] Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (New York: Vintage Books, 2011), 4.

[2] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 5.

[3] McLuhan, 5-6.

[4] Heffernan writes, “This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the ‘open’ Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.” “The Death of the Open Web,” New York Times, May 21, 2010, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/magazine/23FOB-medium-t.html.

[5] Lanier, 62-3.

[6] Zuckerberg’s Law, “Y = C *2^X — Where X is time, Y is what you will be sharing and C is a constant.” Alexia Tsotsis, “Mark Zuckerberg Explains His Law of Social Sharing ,” Tech Crunch, July 6, 2011, accessed March 7, 2013, http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/06/mark-zuckerberg-explains-his-law-of-social-sharing-video/.

[7] Baudrillard writes, “…today there is a pornography of information and communication, a pornography of circuits and networks, of functions and objects in their legibility, availability, regulation, forced signification, capacity to perform, connection, polyvalence, their free expression…” The Ectasy of Communication, (New York: Semiotext(e), 1988) 22.

[8] Lanier, 63.

[9] Then 18-year-old Leif K-Brooks of Brattleboro, Vermont created Omegle, which launched on March 2009. The creator of Chatroulette is then 17-year-old Andrey Ternovskiy of Moscow, Russia. The site launched in November of 2009.

[10] The film, directed by Robert Wise, features an antagonist named V’Ger, a living-machine. The spoiler: it is discovered that V’Ger is a lost Voyager 6 probe, which traveled far, gathering so much knowledge and an upgrade by another alien race, which leads to the development of consciousness. It seeks an end to its search, the transmission of data collected through its travels, and the merging with its Maker, a human-being.

[11] The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, March 4, 2010, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-4-2010/tech-talch—chatroulette.

[12] Andrey Ternovskiy explains: “To me, it’s like the street in some big city, where you see all kinds of unknown faces. Some of those faces appeal to you, some disgust you. Chatroulette is a street that you walk along where you can chat to whomever you like. The program makes the Internet more like real life. As for the ‘freaks and fuckers,’ I’m working on a solution. I have integrated a ‘report’ function into Chatroulette. If three users complain about the same bum, then that user is automatically banned from using the system. So there are a lot less of them already.” Read, “17-Year-Old Chatroulette Founder: ‘Mom, Dad, the Site Is Expanding’,” Spiegel Online, March 5, 2010, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,681817,00.html.

[13] Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, (New York: Basic Books, 2011) 225.

[14] The video can be found at the artists’ homepage, http://www.0100101110101101.org/home/nofun/index.html.

[15] Counter culture guru Timothy Leary, dying of terminal cancer in the mid-1990s, considered broadcasting his suicide online. A New York Times article reports, “The Web, in fact, relies on the breakdown of bounds between private and public; it creates a sense of a large community as well as absolute isolation. The public and private realms become illusions: there is no guaranteed community and no real privacy. One site lists ‘ill celebrities,’ with details of critical illnesses (http://www.tiac.net/users/efoley). Everywhere we are told more than we want to know. ‘Suicide’ bulletin boards for teen-agers on America Online broadcast troubled graffiti to millions: ‘Hey i’m 15 a month ago i almost killed myself I took tons of pills and when that didn’t work i slit my wrists. God why didn’t i die?’” Edward Rothstein, April 29, 1996, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/29/business/technology-connections-web-tuning-timothy-leary-s-last-trip-live-his-deathbed.html.

[16] Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, translated by Chris Turner, (New York: Verso, 2005).

[17] McLuhan, 41.

http://www.norbertogomezjr.com

DISCUSSION

Dead Man’s Bell: Virilio’s Tele-vision & the Cybernetic Eternity


image

“These creatures are nothing but pure motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept of these are family members or friends. They are not.” – Eye-Patch Wearing Scientist[1]



Prologue: Unfriending the Undead

A year ago I unfriended my dead cousin.

A few days following her birthday her Facebook profile photo changed to mark the occasion. The cropped photo was from an older family portrait. She looked young and alive. She had died the previous year, yet her profile remained updated by posts from family and friends in remembrance of their loved one. Even strikingly private changes continued to occur, like those updates which only the owner of said profile might do. Therefore, I write “had died.” My cousin remains online, connected, friended, communicated with, updated, written to in the present-tense, past-tense, and future-tense, as in when-we-meet-again. She is “live.” Someone is acting as her moderator, or mod; her mediator, or medium.

I unfriended my cousin not out of dislike, but out of an intuitive distrust of the process and system which keeps her a living-dead user, and the strange conflation of public-private space affecting both states of her being. The ethics of moderating social memorials and how easily social web users participate is problematic and worth investigating,[2] especially since they do not critically examine social changes. Death 2.0 is a perpetual social eternity. I see the heartbreaking posts of those communicating with the one they miss, and those who lurk and read them—those death voyeurs—and I am interested in what this process means for both the living and the dead.

I begin with a deeply personal experience because I want to speak as a living being referring to the dead—what it means to live with technology, with the non-sentient, and with the use of our image, and our identity by other systems, people, and things. I am personally invested; I am personally embedded. I will make a connection here to three ancient archetypes transfigured through popular cinema: the ghost, the cannibal, and the zombie. Their emergence, or reemergence, with respect to communicative and entertainment media technology illustrates the state-of-the-user or audience today with respect to life and death in a technological culture.

A few things are happening simultaneously. In 2010 Wired Magazine declared the “Death of the Web: Long Live the Internet,”[3] a brazen declaration that Wired is no stranger to issuing,[4] but in this case the dramatics of selling a magazine may be secondary to facts. Ironically, the success of the Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, i.e. everyone’s need to always be connected, has aided in the explosive growth of mobile computing, which is not always web based.[5] It is a “machine-to-machine future…less about browsing and more about getting,”[6] and therefore, consuming.

Surfing is obsolete, and cyberspace is gone. There is no time to enmesh oneself in a new-space when real-space beckons.[7] Instead, the network communities grow, inspired by social network standards, architecture, and expectations. Homepages have transformed, chat rooms no longer dominate, and social network profiles representing the “real you” rather than the “avatar” succeed in their place.[8] We navigate through quick hyper jumps between apps rather than HTML hyperlinks. We look up and down from our mobile phones in rapid succession to the traffic around us as we drive. During the development of this network and its standards, social practices, and communities, there emerges a tension between the online and the offline and, subsequently, between life and death. The reemergence of the zombie in media is but a result of this tension.

Zombie Popocalypse

While the pop-zombie of the 1960s never disappeared, the beginning of the 21st century that has brought an endless assortment of media surrounding the zombie has proliferated for very different reasons. Most notably is the meme of the zombie apocalypse, consisting usually of how-to survival guides and trusty handbooks in preparation for the end-times.[9] Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC), playing on the meme, issued a “Social Media Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” on their official website. The CDC also produced what they call a Zombie Novella, or digital comic described as:

"A fun new way of teaching the importance of emergency preparedness. Our new graphic novel, ‘Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic’ demonstrates the importance of being prepared in an entertaining way that people of all ages will enjoy. Readers follow Todd, Julie, and their dog Max as a strange new disease begins spreading, turning ordinary people into zombies."[10]

image

Besides the deluge of zombie films, cell phone commercials, literature, zombie walks and meet-ups, even academia is getting in on the plague with one group releasing, “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modeling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.”[11] The study ends with what we already know:

In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly. While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.[12]

What has reawakened the zombie? What is it with this new eschatology of the walking dead, and why is it happily spread by our new mobile media situation?

The Disappearance of Spirits

The ghost-in-the-machine is an old specter haunting users of communication technology. In the nineteenth-century the expansive wires of the telegraph transmitted messages from the afterlife, and the television of the twentieth-century stained monitors with images of the dead, both audibly and visually.[13] Partly what fascinates users is the capturing of another person through a recording, a historical archiving of the voice, the image, and or the moving picture. The idea of the perpetuation of what is gone, even if it’s just for a moment, is comforting. Past persists vis-à-vis its recording, its cataloging, tagging, dissemination, sharing, and archiving. Everyone is potentially forever-available.[14] One might say we are allowed the possibility of ownership of one another; it is an answer to the crisis of death, of loss (including memory), and of nothingness.

Ghosts are neither here nor there. They are immaterial. They are that thing which survived the death of the body, yet they allude to it and often represent lost souls forever trapped in the material world. They “missed out,” tortured to forever remember the body they were once a part of. A medium offers to bridge the communicative gap in order to allow the living and ghosts to speak with their lost friends, lovers, parents, siblings, or strangers. Even if the ghosts are strangers, they are still familiar as humans, or former humans.

Dark spirits, or poltergeists, also haunt media: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967) contains secret messages and codes, while the playing of an Ozzy Osbourne record is powerful enough to possess a youth to commit suicide.[15] Oddly, the process of playing songs at varying speeds, forwards and backwards, in an effort to glean coded messages is lost on the CD and the mp3 era when the remixing and deconstructing of popular music is arguably the easiest it has ever been. There isn’t even time for mysticism anymore.

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Ghosts are exorcised. We’ve moved on. The setup for this change is partly the use of wireless technology and the paradoxical result of the shifting terrain of private-public space. As Jeffrey Sconce writes with regard to the introduction of wireless communication technology:

"Whereas the ‘live’ qualities of electronic transmission in telegraphy and telephony had put the listener in immediate, fairly intimate, and ultimately physical contact via a wire with another interlocutor across time and space, wireless offered the potentially more unsettling phenomenon of distant yet instantaneous communication through the open air… communal yet diffuse, isolated, and atomized…"[16]

In The Information Bomb, Paul Virilio writes of an early live-cam pioneer named June Houston whose webpage, Ghostwatcher (1996),[17] served as an early web ghost hunter community. Houston’s strategy was to install live-cams around her home, allowing users on the web to help monitor, in real-time, her living-space for signs of ghosts.[18] Clearly based on her web associations, Houston is something of a performance artist and early adopter of the net as a space for art. While her sincerity is questionable (i.e. Was this really about ghosts?), Virilio makes no mention of this fact, but rather uses the example of Houston as an example of what he refers to as the oncoming tele-vision:
With this voyeurism, tele-surveillance takes on a new meaning. It is no longer a question of forearming oneself against an interloper with criminal intent, but of sharing one’s anxieties, one’s obsessive fears with a whole network, through over-exposure of a living space.[19]

Tele-vision is thus active rather than passive[20] (though the passivity of traditional television is in question). It works by “exposing and invading individuals’ domestic space,” and due to 
“ ‘real-time’ illumination, the space-time of everyone’s apartment becomes potentially connected to all others, the fear of exposing one’s private life gives way to desire to over-expose it to everyone, to the point where, for June Houston, the arrival of ‘ghosts’…is merely the pretext for the invasion of her dwelling by the ‘virtual community’…”.[21] The result is a new localness, or what Virilio calls social tele-localness. Today this is called social media, an outgrowth of a Web 2.0 ideology.[22]

Virilio is writing in 1997-98, during the success of early web browsers. At that time live streaming public cams were new enough for critics and the public to contend with. Thus, Houston serves as a transitional character in the shape of social tele-localness. Houston did not have to go online. She did not have to install webcams and invite the strangers in. This is a nascent example of present self-surveillance and personal overexposure, which at its extreme results in geo-social networking like FourSquare’s location check-in.

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Houston was free to choose, but at the time of her experiment, the possibilities were just specters, or pure potentiality. We exude it now, and although the ideology of Web 2.0 declares infinite choice and interactivity, with it comes the unbearable social pressure to sign up and share. The feeling of melancholy and a paradoxical neither-here-nor-there anxiety during the early use of wireless networks has resulted in our present excessive self-publicity and a transformation of Houston’s former “strangers” into our “friends.”

The Information Bomb is prescient and makes more sense in our social web where the fluidity between the online and the offline essentially declares the end to an already problematic binary. In this state, the natural world is negatively associated with the term “off” as opposed to “on,” dark versus light, dead versus alive. We are not concerned with the possibility of poltergeists any longer, with blurry wandering, invisible eyes. Social tele-localness is our state. Our real friends are also our numbered friends, and their avatars and digital identities are supposedly theirs. We know them as beings with bodies, affecting actual space; therefore, we are subject to the unbearable state of being perpetually in-the-know. Like our dead, we are not allowed to forget, or to have a memory-of, and acquaintances, friends, and enemies become harder to define, or delete.

Something else has taken the place of the ghosts: our friends.

From Cannibalism to new-Zombiism

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In Miami in May of 2012, Rudy Eugene attacked and began to cannibalize the face of homeless man Ronald Poppo in broad daylight. Eugene was shot and killed by an officer, while Poppo lived through the ordeal, though severely disfigured, and essentially faceless. The reasons for Eugene’s behavior remain unknown. The media quickly dubbed the attacker both the “Miami Zombie” and the “Causeway Cannibal.”[23] Sometimes, Eugene is simultaneously referred to as a zombie and a cannibal in a single article,[24] but logic dictates that Eugene cannot be both.[25] All signs point to him acting unlike himself, hence a zombie, yet he most certainly was not the undead. Therefore, he must be a cannibal.[26]

In May of the same year, a video titled 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick was posted online, featuring the stabbing, dismemberment, and murder of a man named Lin Jun, followed by acts of necrophilia and cannibalism. The video was preceded by a social media promotional campaign created by the killer days before the incident.[27] The aforementioned video was posted on a Canadian shock-site called BestGore, which in the past has received as many as 15 million page views per month. While on the run, the suspect, Luka Magnotta, was apprehended in Berlin while reading news stories about himself in an Internet café.[28] Luka was a heavy user of social media, and prior to the murder he was suspected of posting YouTube videos featuring the gruesome murder of kittens.[29] He currently awaits trial.[30]

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In 1980 the film Cannibal Holocaust (Grindhouse) was released. Known today as a cult-gore classic, or “The One That Goes All The Way”, the film, directed by Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato, is the most well-known in a series of cannibal exploitation films during a period called cannibal boom. The tropes are similar: white European travelers visit the Amazon and encounter cannibals, who are either untouched and “primitive” in their ways or driven to viciousness by the “enlightened” westerners. By the standards of 1980’s shock, Deodato’s film is known for its realistic use of gore and impalement, but Cannibal Holocaust is also a work of criticism. It follows bloodthirsty western documentarians who are soon found guilty of staging violence for their cameras, driving the natives to attack, and forcing the audience to wonder who the savages really are. Filmed in a pseudo-documentary, cinéma vérité style, Deodato attempts to make the consumer a participant in the media-gore.

Our real friends are also our numbered friends, and their avatars and digital identities are supposedly theirs. We know them as beings with bodies, affecting actual space; therefore, we are subject to the unbearable state of being perpetually in-the-know.
Seen in total, the cannibal boom era is interested in the “other” in film, mass-media exploitation, consumption, the rational, and the savage. Humanity is questioned, or differentiated. Deodato criticizes the cannibalizing powers of media and network television that exploit the horrors, the gore, and violence of the civilized, or socialized, world. Beginning with Italian mondo-films of the 1960s, like Mondo Cane (Cineriz, 1962),[31] this pseudo-documentary style shocks the viewer, and it is the logical precedent to Faces of Death (Aquarius, 1978),[32] and today’s very real Bestgore.com, who are too impatient to stage death.

On the other hand, the pop-zombies I have been referring to are made famous by filmmaker George A. Romero, beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968). Various explanations are given to the origin of these zombies, none of which is voodoo, i.e. the classical zombie. Instead, germ warfare, or accidents in science, has spread what has come to be known as the zombie plague. Zombies are the dead, whose lifeless corpses somehow walk again, but devoid of their personality and memory, other than an innate need to feed, a hunger for the flesh of living humans.[33] Romero’s early trilogy, ’68, ’78, and ’85[34] periodize their messaging, from racism, to consumerism, and the military-industrial complex. They are a warning of what humans are becoming.

What are we becoming? Surely not the cannibal since it refers to the “other” in a way that invites the character of the unknown stranger. We are not strangers; we are all friends. Instead, the zombie plagues the network, part body part germ-warfare, machine-like in its programming, it shares its brand of information, and it does so as a recognizable body, albeit undead. It could be a family member, brother or sister, friend, or enemy –they are all the same now. It is familiar in how it shares, like an online public profile, spread too wide and too deep. It is forced to forever walk with nothing but a burning hunger to feed and share.

In that case, who really is dead my cousin or me?

Epilogue: MyDeathSpace, New-Zombiism & Network Tele-vision

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Myspace, the first successful social network[35] of the social web, persists but as something closer to a monument to the living dead –pure nostalgia and already retrofied.[36] It is but a shell of its former glory, though it remains in the network, live. Its standards, community and vernaculars helped influence Facebook’s current glory.[37] The icon of your first friend, Tom,[38] is but a digital death mask that persists today. Myspace’s success resulted in MyDeathSpace.com,[39] an online obituary of those social networkers who have died. On the website, a blurb is posted explaining an individual’s demise, followed by a link to their social media profiles. The “My_Space” of MyDeathSpace is no longer a reference to only those dead on the former social network of choice, but to all those dead in network-space. MyDeathSpace has since adapted, and followed the living and the dead to the successful Facebook. Social networks come and go, but death is immortal.

Virilio’s tele-vision is hard to argue against. Personal and social spaces have conflated, problematizing public and private identities and security, most of which we freely or wantonly allow although the social pressure blackens our intentions. We self-surveil to no end, and we perpetuate the new social as more real, more interactive, more local, with Project Glass, Google’s social web augmented reality head-mounted eye-glasses, supposedly putting you back in the moment. Today, new real-death results in a dead man’s bell as your mobile death app alerts you to the who, what, where, when, and why of the deceased and directs you to their social media profile(s). You may now voyeuristically read what friends have to say about the dead –a digital necrophiliac.

Virilio writes:

"To prefer the illusions of networks – drawing on the absolute speed of electronic impulses, which give, or claim to give, instantaneously what time accords only gradually – means not only making light of geographical dimensions, as the acceleration of rapid vehicles has been doing for more than a century now, but, above all, hiding the future in the ultra-short time-span of telematics ‘live transmission’. It means making the future no longer appear to exist by having it happen now. No future…"[40]

Welsh artist Rhys Himsworth’s installation New Life (2008), consists of a cardiograph and laptop reprogrammed to gather data from MyDeathSpace which allows the cardiograph to print images of the dead. The cardiograph paper print-out steadily builds throughout the installation, folds and folds gather along the floor, filling whatever space it is currently housed in. Ironically, it is as if even Himsworth’s attempt at infusing new life into the digital dead instead results in an even more clinical, cold, and technological representation. The artist uses old-media, black on white print technology in an art gallery, a closed-in institution, to honor or exploit the dead. The cardiograph monitors the state-of-the-network. Left alone in a gallery, it expels the faces of the living-dead, who in an act of inversion now appear more real online.

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CITATIONS
[1] Unknown scientist debating on television post-zombie apocalypse. He says, “The normal question, the first question is always, are these cannibals. No they are not cannibals. Cannibalism in the true sense of the word implies an interspecies activity. These creatures cannot be considered human. They prey on humans. They do not prey on each other. That’s the difference. They attack and they feed only on warm flesh. Intelligence? Seemingly little or no reasoning power. But basic skills remain of more remembered behaviors from normal life… I might point out to you that even animals will adopt basic use of tools in this manner. These creatures are nothing but pure motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept of these are family members or friends. They are not. They will not respond to these emotions.” Dawn of the Dead, directed by George A. Romero (1978; Laurel Group Inc. /United Film).

[2] “After Death, Protecting Your ‘Digital After-life,’” NPR, January 10, 2011, http://n.pr/i7Qtp5. Also, the story of e-mails being sent from a dead man’s account and how you too can set this up, “Emails sent from dead man’s account helping family and friends find closure,” Yahoo! News, March 14,2012, http://yhoo.it/A4Gqis. There one can find links to Digital Beyond, who offers after-life digital services. Visit, http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/.

[3] Chris Anderson, “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet,” Wired, August 2010, http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/.

[4] Kevin Kelly & Gary Wolf, “Push!,” Wired, March 1997, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.03/ff_push.html.

[5] Jeremy Vanderlan, “Mobile Internet Use Surpassing Desktop Internet Use by 2014,” Aids (blog), October 11, 2011, http://blog.aids.gov/2011/10/mobile-internet-use-surpassing-desktop-internet-use-by-2014.html.

[6] Anderson.

[7] Anderson explains, “Today the content you see in your browser — largely HTML data delivered via the http protocol on port 80 — accounts for less than a quarter of the traffic on the Internet … and it’s shrinking. The applications that account for more of the Internet’s traffic include peer-to-peer file transfers, email, company VPNs, the machine-to-machine communications of APIs, Skype calls,World of Warcraft and other online games, Xbox Live, iTunes, voice-over-IP phones, iChat, and Netflix movie streaming. Many of the newer Net applications are closed, often proprietary, networks.” The Pew Internet & American Life Project presents a more balanced view of the future of the Web and mobile-alternative uses. They summarize: “The Web Is Dead? No. Experts expect apps and the Web to converge in the cloud; but many worry that simplicity for users will come at a price.” And, “Many anonymous responders challenged the structure of the apps-Web question. Among their arguments: The world ahead is not either apps or the Web. A more hybrid world is likely. Moreover, the tussle between controlled content and user experiences on the one hand and openness on the other hand will play out in other ways.” Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, “The Future of Apps and Web,” Pew Internet, March 23, 2013, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Future-of-Apps-and-Web/Overview.aspx.

[8] More problematically is the possibility that the “real you” is the new-avatar, with fantasy and reality mixing.

[9] See Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003).

[10] “Social Media:Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, July 16, 2012, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies.asp.

[11] “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection”, by Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad and Robert J. Smith?. In Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress, eds. J.M. Tchuenche and C. Chiyaka, Nova Science Publishers, Inc. pp. 133–150, 2009, www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/Zombies.pdf.

[12] 146.

[13] As Jeffrey Sconce writes, “Telegraph lines carried human messages from city to cot and from continent to continent, but more important, they appeared to carry the animating ‘spark’ of consciousness itself beyond the confines of the physical body.” Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, (Durham: Duke, 2000), 7.

[14] Jonathan Sterne writes, “Although it is perhaps most pronounced in phonography, death is everywhere among the living in early discussions of sound’s reproducibility. The spirit world is alive and well in telephony and radio…The logic is impeccable –if sound reproduction simply stratifies vibration in new ways, if we learn to ‘hear’ other areas of the vibrating world, then it would only make sense that we might pick up the voices of the dead.” The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, (Durham: Duke, 2005), 289.

[14] Jonathan Sterne writes, “Although it is perhaps most pronounced in phonography, death is everywhere among the living in early discussions of sound’s reproducibility. The spirit world is alive and well in telephony and radio…The logic is impeccable –if sound reproduction simply stratifies vibration in new ways, if we learn to ‘hear’ other areas of the vibrating world, then it would only make sense that we might pick up the voices of the dead.” The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, (Durham: Duke, 2005), 289.

[15] Osbourne was sued in 1986 by the parents of John McCollum, a teen who committed suicide. McCollum’s parents argued that it was Osbourne’s song lyrics for “Suicide Solution” which led to the teen’s untimely death. The successful album Blizzard of Ozz (Epic, 1980) is also famous for containing the song devoted to occultist Mr. Crowley.

[16] Sconce, 62-3.

[17] The website is archived by Wayback Machine, February 3, 1999, http://bit.ly/1b5gIpX, and for press on Houston, visit, http://www.flyvision.org/june_houston/pub/index.html.

[18] In an FAQ Houston is asked, “Is the GhostWatcher all just about art or is it for real?” She answers, “What do you mean ‘JUST about art?’ Are you saying art’s not for real? Can’t it be both? If I told you it’s this or that would it change anything? What part of this stream of bits (I mean the Web) can you trust?” May 4, 1999, http://bit.ly/S7KsqA.

[19] Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, (New York: Verso, 2005), 58-9.

[20] Virilio is most likely focusing on the unquestionable interactivity of this new tele-vision, which offers content creation, for example, as well as the development of personal broadcasts, or “networks.”

[21] Virilio, 59.

[22] Tim O’Reilly breaks down Web 2.0 as: the web as a platform, crowd wisdom and content-creation heavy, perpetual beta, among other characteristics. “What is Web 2.0?” O’Reilly, September 30, 2005, http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html

[23] Named for the Miami MacArthur Causeway where the attack took place.

[24] One headline reads, “Friends of cannibal Rudy Eugene say he was not ‘a face-eating zombie monster’ as police reveal first picture of homeless victim in bizarre Miami attack,” Herald Sun, May 30, 2012, and another, “Ronald Poppo Named As ‘Zombie’ Rudy Eugene’s Miami Cannibal Attack Victim,” International Business Times, May 30, 2012. Visit, http://bit.ly/KbpENz and http://bit.ly/NbZrfa.

[25] Similarly, how can one be “un-dead” and yet not “alive”?

[26] Almost exactly a year later, Poppo continues to recover, amazingly staying positive throughout the ordeal, even recently recording a YouTube video thanking his donors and supporters, “Ronald Poppo, face-chewing victim, still recovering one-year later:Hospital,” CBS News, May 21,2013, http://cbsn.ws/1gQieK3.

[27] Glen McGregor, “References to snuff video made online10 days before suspected date of slaying,” The Ottawa Citizen, June 1, 2012, http://bit.ly/PZWdPF.

[28] Allan Hall, “Fugitive ‘cannibal’ porn star arrested in Berlin internet café…looking at news stories about himself,” Daily Mail Online, June 4,2012, http://bit.ly/KZOP29.

[29] Tristen Hopper, “Luka Rocca Magnotta hunted by online sleuths over kitten videos long before murder accusations,” National Post, January 6, 2012, http://natpo.st/LknwOY.

[30] Some things never change. The Daily Mail Online reports that Magnotta, like infamous killers before, receives and responds to fan mail while in jail, “Cannibal killer Luka Magnotta sets up special fan site so admires can send him letters in jail cell as he awaits trial for dismembering and eating his lover,” August 15, 2013, http://dailym.ai/1aZqc2y.

[31] Directors Paola Cavala, Franco Prosperi, & Gualtiero Jacopetti.

[32] Director Conan LeCilaire, aka John Alan Schwartz

[33] This is not entirely true to Romero’s zombies. Beginning with the famous intro cemetery scene in Night of the Living Dead (1968; Image Ten and The Walter Reade Organization), we quickly notice that the zombie is intelligent enough to pick up a rock and break a car window. Later, Dawn of the Dead refers to the routine of mall-shopping remains, and Day of the Dead’s *1985; Dead Films Inc and United Film Distribution) Bub not only remembers how to shoot a pistol, but dramatically chases and helps murder the antagonist (a living military member).

[34] In this order, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead.

[35] Pete Cashmore, “Myspace, America’s Number One,” Mashable, July 11, 2006, http://mashable.com/2006/07/11/Myspace-americas-number-one/.

[36] Performer Justin Timberlake is now a co-owner.

[37] Myspace succeeded in creating the current comfortable form of the “friends list,” and “friend feed” as a bulletin board, the share, and the ability to make news and be news both on and offline.

[38] Tom Anderson is the co-founder of Myspace (2003), along with Chris DeWolfe. Tom was the default friend on Myspace for new users. He was your first-friend. His default icon, featuring his white shirt, will never be forgotten. He has since left Myspace and even joined Facebook. A 2010 Associated Press story explains: “And in a change that symbolizes it is really putting its past behind it, Myspace co-founder Tom Anderson, a smiling guy looking back across his white T-shirt, recently stopped being every new user’s first friend. Since last month, he’s been replaced by a cleverly named profile, Today On Myspace (T.O.M.), which features new songs, movie clips and celebrity updates and starts feeding into the new users’ stream right away. That leaves new users with a better sense of what Myspace has to offer, rather than leaving them with one friend and clueless, Jones said.” http://buswk.co/QwFUao

[39] Launched 2006

[40] Virilio, 94, author’s emphasis.

DISCUSSION

Dead Man’s Bell: Virilio’s Tele-vision & the Cybernetic Eternity


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“These creatures are nothing but pure motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept of these are family members or friends. They are not.” – Eye-Patch Wearing Scientist[1]



Prologue: Unfriending the Undead

A year ago I unfriended my dead cousin.

A few days following her birthday her Facebook profile photo changed to mark the occasion. The cropped photo was from an older family portrait. She looked young and alive. She had died the previous year, yet her profile remained updated by posts from family and friends in remembrance of their loved one. Even strikingly private changes continued to occur, like those updates which only the owner of said profile might do. Therefore, I write “had died.” My cousin remains online, connected, friended, communicated with, updated, written to in the present-tense, past-tense, and future-tense, as in when-we-meet-again. She is “live.” Someone is acting as her moderator, or mod; her mediator, or medium.

I unfriended my cousin not out of dislike, but out of an intuitive distrust of the process and system which keeps her a living-dead user, and the strange conflation of public-private space affecting both states of her being. The ethics of moderating social memorials and how easily social web users participate is problematic and worth investigating,[2] especially since they do not critically examine social changes. Death 2.0 is a perpetual social eternity. I see the heartbreaking posts of those communicating with the one they miss, and those who lurk and read them—those death voyeurs—and I am interested in what this process means for both the living and the dead.

I begin with a deeply personal experience because I want to speak as a living being referring to the dead—what it means to live with technology, with the non-sentient, and with the use of our image, and our identity by other systems, people, and things. I am personally invested; I am personally embedded. I will make a connection here to three ancient archetypes transfigured through popular cinema: the ghost, the cannibal, and the zombie. Their emergence, or reemergence, with respect to communicative and entertainment media technology illustrates the state-of-the-user or audience today with respect to life and death in a technological culture.

A few things are happening simultaneously. In 2010 Wired Magazine declared the “Death of the Web: Long Live the Internet,”[3] a brazen declaration that Wired is no stranger to issuing,[4] but in this case the dramatics of selling a magazine may be secondary to facts. Ironically, the success of the Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, i.e. everyone’s need to always be connected, has aided in the explosive growth of mobile computing, which is not always web based.[5] It is a “machine-to-machine future…less about browsing and more about getting,”[6] and therefore, consuming.

Surfing is obsolete, and cyberspace is gone. There is no time to enmesh oneself in a new-space when real-space beckons.[7] Instead, the network communities grow, inspired by social network standards, architecture, and expectations. Homepages have transformed, chat rooms no longer dominate, and social network profiles representing the “real you” rather than the “avatar” succeed in their place.[8] We navigate through quick hyper jumps between apps rather than HTML hyperlinks. We look up and down from our mobile phones in rapid succession to the traffic around us as we drive. During the development of this network and its standards, social practices, and communities, there emerges a tension between the online and the offline and, subsequently, between life and death. The reemergence of the zombie in media is but a result of this tension.

Zombie Popocalypse

While the pop-zombie of the 1960s never disappeared, the beginning of the 21st century that has brought an endless assortment of media surrounding the zombie has proliferated for very different reasons. Most notably is the meme of the zombie apocalypse, consisting usually of how-to survival guides and trusty handbooks in preparation for the end-times.[9] Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC), playing on the meme, issued a “Social Media Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” on their official website. The CDC also produced what they call a Zombie Novella, or digital comic described as:

"A fun new way of teaching the importance of emergency preparedness. Our new graphic novel, ‘Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic’ demonstrates the importance of being prepared in an entertaining way that people of all ages will enjoy. Readers follow Todd, Julie, and their dog Max as a strange new disease begins spreading, turning ordinary people into zombies."[10]

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Besides the deluge of zombie films, cell phone commercials, literature, zombie walks and meet-ups, even academia is getting in on the plague with one group releasing, “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modeling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.”[11] The study ends with what we already know:

In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly. While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.[12]

What has reawakened the zombie? What is it with this new eschatology of the walking dead, and why is it happily spread by our new mobile media situation?

The Disappearance of Spirits

The ghost-in-the-machine is an old specter haunting users of communication technology. In the nineteenth-century the expansive wires of the telegraph transmitted messages from the afterlife, and the television of the twentieth-century stained monitors with images of the dead, both audibly and visually.[13] Partly what fascinates users is the capturing of another person through a recording, a historical archiving of the voice, the image, and or the moving picture. The idea of the perpetuation of what is gone, even if it’s just for a moment, is comforting. Past persists vis-à-vis its recording, its cataloging, tagging, dissemination, sharing, and archiving. Everyone is potentially forever-available.[14] One might say we are allowed the possibility of ownership of one another; it is an answer to the crisis of death, of loss (including memory), and of nothingness.

Ghosts are neither here nor there. They are immaterial. They are that thing which survived the death of the body, yet they allude to it and often represent lost souls forever trapped in the material world. They “missed out,” tortured to forever remember the body they were once a part of. A medium offers to bridge the communicative gap in order to allow the living and ghosts to speak with their lost friends, lovers, parents, siblings, or strangers. Even if the ghosts are strangers, they are still familiar as humans, or former humans.

Dark spirits, or poltergeists, also haunt media: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967) contains secret messages and codes, while the playing of an Ozzy Osbourne record is powerful enough to possess a youth to commit suicide.[15] Oddly, the process of playing songs at varying speeds, forwards and backwards, in an effort to glean coded messages is lost on the CD and the mp3 era when the remixing and deconstructing of popular music is arguably the easiest it has ever been. There isn’t even time for mysticism anymore.

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Ghosts are exorcised. We’ve moved on. The setup for this change is partly the use of wireless technology and the paradoxical result of the shifting terrain of private-public space. As Jeffrey Sconce writes with regard to the introduction of wireless communication technology:

"Whereas the ‘live’ qualities of electronic transmission in telegraphy and telephony had put the listener in immediate, fairly intimate, and ultimately physical contact via a wire with another interlocutor across time and space, wireless offered the potentially more unsettling phenomenon of distant yet instantaneous communication through the open air… communal yet diffuse, isolated, and atomized…"[16]

In The Information Bomb, Paul Virilio writes of an early live-cam pioneer named June Houston whose webpage, Ghostwatcher (1996),[17] served as an early web ghost hunter community. Houston’s strategy was to install live-cams around her home, allowing users on the web to help monitor, in real-time, her living-space for signs of ghosts.[18] Clearly based on her web associations, Houston is something of a performance artist and early adopter of the net as a space for art. While her sincerity is questionable (i.e. Was this really about ghosts?), Virilio makes no mention of this fact, but rather uses the example of Houston as an example of what he refers to as the oncoming tele-vision:
With this voyeurism, tele-surveillance takes on a new meaning. It is no longer a question of forearming oneself against an interloper with criminal intent, but of sharing one’s anxieties, one’s obsessive fears with a whole network, through over-exposure of a living space.[19]

Tele-vision is thus active rather than passive[20] (though the passivity of traditional television is in question). It works by “exposing and invading individuals’ domestic space,” and due to 
“ ‘real-time’ illumination, the space-time of everyone’s apartment becomes potentially connected to all others, the fear of exposing one’s private life gives way to desire to over-expose it to everyone, to the point where, for June Houston, the arrival of ‘ghosts’…is merely the pretext for the invasion of her dwelling by the ‘virtual community’…”.[21] The result is a new localness, or what Virilio calls social tele-localness. Today this is called social media, an outgrowth of a Web 2.0 ideology.[22]

Virilio is writing in 1997-98, during the success of early web browsers. At that time live streaming public cams were new enough for critics and the public to contend with. Thus, Houston serves as a transitional character in the shape of social tele-localness. Houston did not have to go online. She did not have to install webcams and invite the strangers in. This is a nascent example of present self-surveillance and personal overexposure, which at its extreme results in geo-social networking like FourSquare’s location check-in.

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Houston was free to choose, but at the time of her experiment, the possibilities were just specters, or pure potentiality. We exude it now, and although the ideology of Web 2.0 declares infinite choice and interactivity, with it comes the unbearable social pressure to sign up and share. The feeling of melancholy and a paradoxical neither-here-nor-there anxiety during the early use of wireless networks has resulted in our present excessive self-publicity and a transformation of Houston’s former “strangers” into our “friends.”

The Information Bomb is prescient and makes more sense in our social web where the fluidity between the online and the offline essentially declares the end to an already problematic binary. In this state, the natural world is negatively associated with the term “off” as opposed to “on,” dark versus light, dead versus alive. We are not concerned with the possibility of poltergeists any longer, with blurry wandering, invisible eyes. Social tele-localness is our state. Our real friends are also our numbered friends, and their avatars and digital identities are supposedly theirs. We know them as beings with bodies, affecting actual space; therefore, we are subject to the unbearable state of being perpetually in-the-know. Like our dead, we are not allowed to forget, or to have a memory-of, and acquaintances, friends, and enemies become harder to define, or delete.

Something else has taken the place of the ghosts: our friends.

From Cannibalism to new-Zombiism

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In Miami in May of 2012, Rudy Eugene attacked and began to cannibalize the face of homeless man Ronald Poppo in broad daylight. Eugene was shot and killed by an officer, while Poppo lived through the ordeal, though severely disfigured, and essentially faceless. The reasons for Eugene’s behavior remain unknown. The media quickly dubbed the attacker both the “Miami Zombie” and the “Causeway Cannibal.”[23] Sometimes, Eugene is simultaneously referred to as a zombie and a cannibal in a single article,[24] but logic dictates that Eugene cannot be both.[25] All signs point to him acting unlike himself, hence a zombie, yet he most certainly was not the undead. Therefore, he must be a cannibal.[26]

In May of the same year, a video titled 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick was posted online, featuring the stabbing, dismemberment, and murder of a man named Lin Jun, followed by acts of necrophilia and cannibalism. The video was preceded by a social media promotional campaign created by the killer days before the incident.[27] The aforementioned video was posted on a Canadian shock-site called BestGore, which in the past has received as many as 15 million page views per month. While on the run, the suspect, Luka Magnotta, was apprehended in Berlin while reading news stories about himself in an Internet café.[28] Luka was a heavy user of social media, and prior to the murder he was suspected of posting YouTube videos featuring the gruesome murder of kittens.[29] He currently awaits trial.[30]

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In 1980 the film Cannibal Holocaust (Grindhouse) was released. Known today as a cult-gore classic, or “The One That Goes All The Way”, the film, directed by Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato, is the most well-known in a series of cannibal exploitation films during a period called cannibal boom. The tropes are similar: white European travelers visit the Amazon and encounter cannibals, who are either untouched and “primitive” in their ways or driven to viciousness by the “enlightened” westerners. By the standards of 1980’s shock, Deodato’s film is known for its realistic use of gore and impalement, but Cannibal Holocaust is also a work of criticism. It follows bloodthirsty western documentarians who are soon found guilty of staging violence for their cameras, driving the natives to attack, and forcing the audience to wonder who the savages really are. Filmed in a pseudo-documentary, cinéma vérité style, Deodato attempts to make the consumer a participant in the media-gore.

Our real friends are also our numbered friends, and their avatars and digital identities are supposedly theirs. We know them as beings with bodies, affecting actual space; therefore, we are subject to the unbearable state of being perpetually in-the-know.
Seen in total, the cannibal boom era is interested in the “other” in film, mass-media exploitation, consumption, the rational, and the savage. Humanity is questioned, or differentiated. Deodato criticizes the cannibalizing powers of media and network television that exploit the horrors, the gore, and violence of the civilized, or socialized, world. Beginning with Italian mondo-films of the 1960s, like Mondo Cane (Cineriz, 1962),[31] this pseudo-documentary style shocks the viewer, and it is the logical precedent to Faces of Death (Aquarius, 1978),[32] and today’s very real Bestgore.com, who are too impatient to stage death.

On the other hand, the pop-zombies I have been referring to are made famous by filmmaker George A. Romero, beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968). Various explanations are given to the origin of these zombies, none of which is voodoo, i.e. the classical zombie. Instead, germ warfare, or accidents in science, has spread what has come to be known as the zombie plague. Zombies are the dead, whose lifeless corpses somehow walk again, but devoid of their personality and memory, other than an innate need to feed, a hunger for the flesh of living humans.[33] Romero’s early trilogy, ’68, ’78, and ’85[34] periodize their messaging, from racism, to consumerism, and the military-industrial complex. They are a warning of what humans are becoming.

What are we becoming? Surely not the cannibal since it refers to the “other” in a way that invites the character of the unknown stranger. We are not strangers; we are all friends. Instead, the zombie plagues the network, part body part germ-warfare, machine-like in its programming, it shares its brand of information, and it does so as a recognizable body, albeit undead. It could be a family member, brother or sister, friend, or enemy –they are all the same now. It is familiar in how it shares, like an online public profile, spread too wide and too deep. It is forced to forever walk with nothing but a burning hunger to feed and share.

In that case, who really is dead my cousin or me?

Epilogue: MyDeathSpace, New-Zombiism & Network Tele-vision

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Myspace, the first successful social network[35] of the social web, persists but as something closer to a monument to the living dead –pure nostalgia and already retrofied.[36] It is but a shell of its former glory, though it remains in the network, live. Its standards, community and vernaculars helped influence Facebook’s current glory.[37] The icon of your first friend, Tom,[38] is but a digital death mask that persists today. Myspace’s success resulted in MyDeathSpace.com,[39] an online obituary of those social networkers who have died. On the website, a blurb is posted explaining an individual’s demise, followed by a link to their social media profiles. The “My_Space” of MyDeathSpace is no longer a reference to only those dead on the former social network of choice, but to all those dead in network-space. MyDeathSpace has since adapted, and followed the living and the dead to the successful Facebook. Social networks come and go, but death is immortal.

Virilio’s tele-vision is hard to argue against. Personal and social spaces have conflated, problematizing public and private identities and security, most of which we freely or wantonly allow although the social pressure blackens our intentions. We self-surveil to no end, and we perpetuate the new social as more real, more interactive, more local, with Project Glass, Google’s social web augmented reality head-mounted eye-glasses, supposedly putting you back in the moment. Today, new real-death results in a dead man’s bell as your mobile death app alerts you to the who, what, where, when, and why of the deceased and directs you to their social media profile(s). You may now voyeuristically read what friends have to say about the dead –a digital necrophiliac.

Virilio writes:

"To prefer the illusions of networks – drawing on the absolute speed of electronic impulses, which give, or claim to give, instantaneously what time accords only gradually – means not only making light of geographical dimensions, as the acceleration of rapid vehicles has been doing for more than a century now, but, above all, hiding the future in the ultra-short time-span of telematics ‘live transmission’. It means making the future no longer appear to exist by having it happen now. No future…"[40]

Welsh artist Rhys Himsworth’s installation New Life (2008), consists of a cardiograph and laptop reprogrammed to gather data from MyDeathSpace which allows the cardiograph to print images of the dead. The cardiograph paper print-out steadily builds throughout the installation, folds and folds gather along the floor, filling whatever space it is currently housed in. Ironically, it is as if even Himsworth’s attempt at infusing new life into the digital dead instead results in an even more clinical, cold, and technological representation. The artist uses old-media, black on white print technology in an art gallery, a closed-in institution, to honor or exploit the dead. The cardiograph monitors the state-of-the-network. Left alone in a gallery, it expels the faces of the living-dead, who in an act of inversion now appear more real online.

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CITATIONS
[1] Unknown scientist debating on television post-zombie apocalypse. He says, “The normal question, the first question is always, are these cannibals. No they are not cannibals. Cannibalism in the true sense of the word implies an interspecies activity. These creatures cannot be considered human. They prey on humans. They do not prey on each other. That’s the difference. They attack and they feed only on warm flesh. Intelligence? Seemingly little or no reasoning power. But basic skills remain of more remembered behaviors from normal life… I might point out to you that even animals will adopt basic use of tools in this manner. These creatures are nothing but pure motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept of these are family members or friends. They are not. They will not respond to these emotions.” Dawn of the Dead, directed by George A. Romero (1978; Laurel Group Inc. /United Film).

[2] “After Death, Protecting Your ‘Digital After-life,’” NPR, January 10, 2011, http://n.pr/i7Qtp5. Also, the story of e-mails being sent from a dead man’s account and how you too can set this up, “Emails sent from dead man’s account helping family and friends find closure,” Yahoo! News, March 14,2012, http://yhoo.it/A4Gqis. There one can find links to Digital Beyond, who offers after-life digital services. Visit, http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/.

[3] Chris Anderson, “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet,” Wired, August 2010, http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/.

[4] Kevin Kelly & Gary Wolf, “Push!,” Wired, March 1997, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.03/ff_push.html.

[5] Jeremy Vanderlan, “Mobile Internet Use Surpassing Desktop Internet Use by 2014,” Aids (blog), October 11, 2011, http://blog.aids.gov/2011/10/mobile-internet-use-surpassing-desktop-internet-use-by-2014.html.

[6] Anderson.

[7] Anderson explains, “Today the content you see in your browser — largely HTML data delivered via the http protocol on port 80 — accounts for less than a quarter of the traffic on the Internet … and it’s shrinking. The applications that account for more of the Internet’s traffic include peer-to-peer file transfers, email, company VPNs, the machine-to-machine communications of APIs, Skype calls,World of Warcraft and other online games, Xbox Live, iTunes, voice-over-IP phones, iChat, and Netflix movie streaming. Many of the newer Net applications are closed, often proprietary, networks.” The Pew Internet & American Life Project presents a more balanced view of the future of the Web and mobile-alternative uses. They summarize: “The Web Is Dead? No. Experts expect apps and the Web to converge in the cloud; but many worry that simplicity for users will come at a price.” And, “Many anonymous responders challenged the structure of the apps-Web question. Among their arguments: The world ahead is not either apps or the Web. A more hybrid world is likely. Moreover, the tussle between controlled content and user experiences on the one hand and openness on the other hand will play out in other ways.” Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, “The Future of Apps and Web,” Pew Internet, March 23, 2013, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Future-of-Apps-and-Web/Overview.aspx.

[8] More problematically is the possibility that the “real you” is the new-avatar, with fantasy and reality mixing.

[9] See Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003).

[10] “Social Media:Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, July 16, 2012, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies.asp.

[11] “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection”, by Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad and Robert J. Smith?. In Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress, eds. J.M. Tchuenche and C. Chiyaka, Nova Science Publishers, Inc. pp. 133–150, 2009, www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/Zombies.pdf.

[12] 146.

[13] As Jeffrey Sconce writes, “Telegraph lines carried human messages from city to cot and from continent to continent, but more important, they appeared to carry the animating ‘spark’ of consciousness itself beyond the confines of the physical body.” Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, (Durham: Duke, 2000), 7.

[14] Jonathan Sterne writes, “Although it is perhaps most pronounced in phonography, death is everywhere among the living in early discussions of sound’s reproducibility. The spirit world is alive and well in telephony and radio…The logic is impeccable –if sound reproduction simply stratifies vibration in new ways, if we learn to ‘hear’ other areas of the vibrating world, then it would only make sense that we might pick up the voices of the dead.” The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, (Durham: Duke, 2005), 289.

[14] Jonathan Sterne writes, “Although it is perhaps most pronounced in phonography, death is everywhere among the living in early discussions of sound’s reproducibility. The spirit world is alive and well in telephony and radio…The logic is impeccable –if sound reproduction simply stratifies vibration in new ways, if we learn to ‘hear’ other areas of the vibrating world, then it would only make sense that we might pick up the voices of the dead.” The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, (Durham: Duke, 2005), 289.

[15] Osbourne was sued in 1986 by the parents of John McCollum, a teen who committed suicide. McCollum’s parents argued that it was Osbourne’s song lyrics for “Suicide Solution” which led to the teen’s untimely death. The successful album Blizzard of Ozz (Epic, 1980) is also famous for containing the song devoted to occultist Mr. Crowley.

[16] Sconce, 62-3.

[17] The website is archived by Wayback Machine, February 3, 1999, http://bit.ly/1b5gIpX, and for press on Houston, visit, http://www.flyvision.org/june_houston/pub/index.html.

[18] In an FAQ Houston is asked, “Is the GhostWatcher all just about art or is it for real?” She answers, “What do you mean ‘JUST about art?’ Are you saying art’s not for real? Can’t it be both? If I told you it’s this or that would it change anything? What part of this stream of bits (I mean the Web) can you trust?” May 4, 1999, http://bit.ly/S7KsqA.

[19] Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, (New York: Verso, 2005), 58-9.

[20] Virilio is most likely focusing on the unquestionable interactivity of this new tele-vision, which offers content creation, for example, as well as the development of personal broadcasts, or “networks.”

[21] Virilio, 59.

[22] Tim O’Reilly breaks down Web 2.0 as: the web as a platform, crowd wisdom and content-creation heavy, perpetual beta, among other characteristics. “What is Web 2.0?” O’Reilly, September 30, 2005, http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html

[23] Named for the Miami MacArthur Causeway where the attack took place.

[24] One headline reads, “Friends of cannibal Rudy Eugene say he was not ‘a face-eating zombie monster’ as police reveal first picture of homeless victim in bizarre Miami attack,” Herald Sun, May 30, 2012, and another, “Ronald Poppo Named As ‘Zombie’ Rudy Eugene’s Miami Cannibal Attack Victim,” International Business Times, May 30, 2012. Visit, http://bit.ly/KbpENz and http://bit.ly/NbZrfa.

[25] Similarly, how can one be “un-dead” and yet not “alive”?

[26] Almost exactly a year later, Poppo continues to recover, amazingly staying positive throughout the ordeal, even recently recording a YouTube video thanking his donors and supporters, “Ronald Poppo, face-chewing victim, still recovering one-year later:Hospital,” CBS News, May 21,2013, http://cbsn.ws/1gQieK3.

[27] Glen McGregor, “References to snuff video made online10 days before suspected date of slaying,” The Ottawa Citizen, June 1, 2012, http://bit.ly/PZWdPF.

[28] Allan Hall, “Fugitive ‘cannibal’ porn star arrested in Berlin internet café…looking at news stories about himself,” Daily Mail Online, June 4,2012, http://bit.ly/KZOP29.

[29] Tristen Hopper, “Luka Rocca Magnotta hunted by online sleuths over kitten videos long before murder accusations,” National Post, January 6, 2012, http://natpo.st/LknwOY.

[30] Some things never change. The Daily Mail Online reports that Magnotta, like infamous killers before, receives and responds to fan mail while in jail, “Cannibal killer Luka Magnotta sets up special fan site so admires can send him letters in jail cell as he awaits trial for dismembering and eating his lover,” August 15, 2013, http://dailym.ai/1aZqc2y.

[31] Directors Paola Cavala, Franco Prosperi, & Gualtiero Jacopetti.

[32] Director Conan LeCilaire, aka John Alan Schwartz

[33] This is not entirely true to Romero’s zombies. Beginning with the famous intro cemetery scene in Night of the Living Dead (1968; Image Ten and The Walter Reade Organization), we quickly notice that the zombie is intelligent enough to pick up a rock and break a car window. Later, Dawn of the Dead refers to the routine of mall-shopping remains, and Day of the Dead’s *1985; Dead Films Inc and United Film Distribution) Bub not only remembers how to shoot a pistol, but dramatically chases and helps murder the antagonist (a living military member).

[34] In this order, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead.

[35] Pete Cashmore, “Myspace, America’s Number One,” Mashable, July 11, 2006, http://mashable.com/2006/07/11/Myspace-americas-number-one/.

[36] Performer Justin Timberlake is now a co-owner.

[37] Myspace succeeded in creating the current comfortable form of the “friends list,” and “friend feed” as a bulletin board, the share, and the ability to make news and be news both on and offline.

[38] Tom Anderson is the co-founder of Myspace (2003), along with Chris DeWolfe. Tom was the default friend on Myspace for new users. He was your first-friend. His default icon, featuring his white shirt, will never be forgotten. He has since left Myspace and even joined Facebook. A 2010 Associated Press story explains: “And in a change that symbolizes it is really putting its past behind it, Myspace co-founder Tom Anderson, a smiling guy looking back across his white T-shirt, recently stopped being every new user’s first friend. Since last month, he’s been replaced by a cleverly named profile, Today On Myspace (T.O.M.), which features new songs, movie clips and celebrity updates and starts feeding into the new users’ stream right away. That leaves new users with a better sense of what Myspace has to offer, rather than leaving them with one friend and clueless, Jones said.” http://buswk.co/QwFUao

[39] Launched 2006

[40] Virilio, 94, author’s emphasis.

DISCUSSION

Dead Man’s Bell: Virilio’s Tele-vision & the Cybernetic Eternity


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“These creatures are nothing but pure motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept of these are family members or friends. They are not.” – Eye-Patch Wearing Scientist[1]



Prologue: Unfriending the Undead

A year ago I unfriended my dead cousin.

A few days following her birthday her Facebook profile photo changed to mark the occasion. The cropped photo was from an older family portrait. She looked young and alive. She had died the previous year, yet her profile remained updated by posts from family and friends in remembrance of their loved one. Even strikingly private changes continued to occur, like those updates which only the owner of said profile might do. Therefore, I write “had died.” My cousin remains online, connected, friended, communicated with, updated, written to in the present-tense, past-tense, and future-tense, as in when-we-meet-again. She is “live.” Someone is acting as her moderator, or mod; her mediator, or medium.

I unfriended my cousin not out of dislike, but out of an intuitive distrust of the process and system which keeps her a living-dead user, and the strange conflation of public-private space affecting both states of her being. The ethics of moderating social memorials and how easily social web users participate is problematic and worth investigating,[2] especially since they do not critically examine social changes. Death 2.0 is a perpetual social eternity. I see the heartbreaking posts of those communicating with the one they miss, and those who lurk and read them—those death voyeurs—and I am interested in what this process means for both the living and the dead.

I begin with a deeply personal experience because I want to speak as a living being referring to the dead—what it means to live with technology, with the non-sentient, and with the use of our image, and our identity by other systems, people, and things. I am personally invested; I am personally embedded. I will make a connection here to three ancient archetypes transfigured through popular cinema: the ghost, the cannibal, and the zombie. Their emergence, or reemergence, with respect to communicative and entertainment media technology illustrates the state-of-the-user or audience today with respect to life and death in a technological culture.

A few things are happening simultaneously. In 2010 Wired Magazine declared the “Death of the Web: Long Live the Internet,”[3] a brazen declaration that Wired is no stranger to issuing,[4] but in this case the dramatics of selling a magazine may be secondary to facts. Ironically, the success of the Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, i.e. everyone’s need to always be connected, has aided in the explosive growth of mobile computing, which is not always web based.[5] It is a “machine-to-machine future…less about browsing and more about getting,”[6] and therefore, consuming.

Surfing is obsolete, and cyberspace is gone. There is no time to enmesh oneself in a new-space when real-space beckons.[7] Instead, the network communities grow, inspired by social network standards, architecture, and expectations. Homepages have transformed, chat rooms no longer dominate, and social network profiles representing the “real you” rather than the “avatar” succeed in their place.[8] We navigate through quick hyper jumps between apps rather than HTML hyperlinks. We look up and down from our mobile phones in rapid succession to the traffic around us as we drive. During the development of this network and its standards, social practices, and communities, there emerges a tension between the online and the offline and, subsequently, between life and death. The reemergence of the zombie in media is but a result of this tension.

Zombie Popocalypse

While the pop-zombie of the 1960s never disappeared, the beginning of the 21st century that has brought an endless assortment of media surrounding the zombie has proliferated for very different reasons. Most notably is the meme of the zombie apocalypse, consisting usually of how-to survival guides and trusty handbooks in preparation for the end-times.[9] Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC), playing on the meme, issued a “Social Media Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” on their official website. The CDC also produced what they call a Zombie Novella, or digital comic described as:

"A fun new way of teaching the importance of emergency preparedness. Our new graphic novel, ‘Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic’ demonstrates the importance of being prepared in an entertaining way that people of all ages will enjoy. Readers follow Todd, Julie, and their dog Max as a strange new disease begins spreading, turning ordinary people into zombies."[10]

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Besides the deluge of zombie films, cell phone commercials, literature, zombie walks and meet-ups, even academia is getting in on the plague with one group releasing, “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modeling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.”[11] The study ends with what we already know:

In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly. While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.[12]

What has reawakened the zombie? What is it with this new eschatology of the walking dead, and why is it happily spread by our new mobile media situation?

The Disappearance of Spirits

The ghost-in-the-machine is an old specter haunting users of communication technology. In the nineteenth-century the expansive wires of the telegraph transmitted messages from the afterlife, and the television of the twentieth-century stained monitors with images of the dead, both audibly and visually.[13] Partly what fascinates users is the capturing of another person through a recording, a historical archiving of the voice, the image, and or the moving picture. The idea of the perpetuation of what is gone, even if it’s just for a moment, is comforting. Past persists vis-à-vis its recording, its cataloging, tagging, dissemination, sharing, and archiving. Everyone is potentially forever-available.[14] One might say we are allowed the possibility of ownership of one another; it is an answer to the crisis of death, of loss (including memory), and of nothingness.

Ghosts are neither here nor there. They are immaterial. They are that thing which survived the death of the body, yet they allude to it and often represent lost souls forever trapped in the material world. They “missed out,” tortured to forever remember the body they were once a part of. A medium offers to bridge the communicative gap in order to allow the living and ghosts to speak with their lost friends, lovers, parents, siblings, or strangers. Even if the ghosts are strangers, they are still familiar as humans, or former humans.

Dark spirits, or poltergeists, also haunt media: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967) contains secret messages and codes, while the playing of an Ozzy Osbourne record is powerful enough to possess a youth to commit suicide.[15] Oddly, the process of playing songs at varying speeds, forwards and backwards, in an effort to glean coded messages is lost on the CD and the mp3 era when the remixing and deconstructing of popular music is arguably the easiest it has ever been. There isn’t even time for mysticism anymore.

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Ghosts are exorcised. We’ve moved on. The setup for this change is partly the use of wireless technology and the paradoxical result of the shifting terrain of private-public space. As Jeffrey Sconce writes with regard to the introduction of wireless communication technology:

"Whereas the ‘live’ qualities of electronic transmission in telegraphy and telephony had put the listener in immediate, fairly intimate, and ultimately physical contact via a wire with another interlocutor across time and space, wireless offered the potentially more unsettling phenomenon of distant yet instantaneous communication through the open air… communal yet diffuse, isolated, and atomized…"[16]

In The Information Bomb, Paul Virilio writes of an early live-cam pioneer named June Houston whose webpage, Ghostwatcher (1996),[17] served as an early web ghost hunter community. Houston’s strategy was to install live-cams around her home, allowing users on the web to help monitor, in real-time, her living-space for signs of ghosts.[18] Clearly based on her web associations, Houston is something of a performance artist and early adopter of the net as a space for art. While her sincerity is questionable (i.e. Was this really about ghosts?), Virilio makes no mention of this fact, but rather uses the example of Houston as an example of what he refers to as the oncoming tele-vision:
With this voyeurism, tele-surveillance takes on a new meaning. It is no longer a question of forearming oneself against an interloper with criminal intent, but of sharing one’s anxieties, one’s obsessive fears with a whole network, through over-exposure of a living space.[19]

Tele-vision is thus active rather than passive[20] (though the passivity of traditional television is in question). It works by “exposing and invading individuals’ domestic space,” and due to 
“ ‘real-time’ illumination, the space-time of everyone’s apartment becomes potentially connected to all others, the fear of exposing one’s private life gives way to desire to over-expose it to everyone, to the point where, for June Houston, the arrival of ‘ghosts’…is merely the pretext for the invasion of her dwelling by the ‘virtual community’…”.[21] The result is a new localness, or what Virilio calls social tele-localness. Today this is called social media, an outgrowth of a Web 2.0 ideology.[22]

Virilio is writing in 1997-98, during the success of early web browsers. At that time live streaming public cams were new enough for critics and the public to contend with. Thus, Houston serves as a transitional character in the shape of social tele-localness. Houston did not have to go online. She did not have to install webcams and invite the strangers in. This is a nascent example of present self-surveillance and personal overexposure, which at its extreme results in geo-social networking like FourSquare’s location check-in.

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Houston was free to choose, but at the time of her experiment, the possibilities were just specters, or pure potentiality. We exude it now, and although the ideology of Web 2.0 declares infinite choice and interactivity, with it comes the unbearable social pressure to sign up and share. The feeling of melancholy and a paradoxical neither-here-nor-there anxiety during the early use of wireless networks has resulted in our present excessive self-publicity and a transformation of Houston’s former “strangers” into our “friends.”

The Information Bomb is prescient and makes more sense in our social web where the fluidity between the online and the offline essentially declares the end to an already problematic binary. In this state, the natural world is negatively associated with the term “off” as opposed to “on,” dark versus light, dead versus alive. We are not concerned with the possibility of poltergeists any longer, with blurry wandering, invisible eyes. Social tele-localness is our state. Our real friends are also our numbered friends, and their avatars and digital identities are supposedly theirs. We know them as beings with bodies, affecting actual space; therefore, we are subject to the unbearable state of being perpetually in-the-know. Like our dead, we are not allowed to forget, or to have a memory-of, and acquaintances, friends, and enemies become harder to define, or delete.

Something else has taken the place of the ghosts: our friends.

From Cannibalism to new-Zombiism

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In Miami in May of 2012, Rudy Eugene attacked and began to cannibalize the face of homeless man Ronald Poppo in broad daylight. Eugene was shot and killed by an officer, while Poppo lived through the ordeal, though severely disfigured, and essentially faceless. The reasons for Eugene’s behavior remain unknown. The media quickly dubbed the attacker both the “Miami Zombie” and the “Causeway Cannibal.”[23] Sometimes, Eugene is simultaneously referred to as a zombie and a cannibal in a single article,[24] but logic dictates that Eugene cannot be both.[25] All signs point to him acting unlike himself, hence a zombie, yet he most certainly was not the undead. Therefore, he must be a cannibal.[26]

In May of the same year, a video titled 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick was posted online, featuring the stabbing, dismemberment, and murder of a man named Lin Jun, followed by acts of necrophilia and cannibalism. The video was preceded by a social media promotional campaign created by the killer days before the incident.[27] The aforementioned video was posted on a Canadian shock-site called BestGore, which in the past has received as many as 15 million page views per month. While on the run, the suspect, Luka Magnotta, was apprehended in Berlin while reading news stories about himself in an Internet café.[28] Luka was a heavy user of social media, and prior to the murder he was suspected of posting YouTube videos featuring the gruesome murder of kittens.[29] He currently awaits trial.[30]

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In 1980 the film Cannibal Holocaust (Grindhouse) was released. Known today as a cult-gore classic, or “The One That Goes All The Way”, the film, directed by Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato, is the most well-known in a series of cannibal exploitation films during a period called cannibal boom. The tropes are similar: white European travelers visit the Amazon and encounter cannibals, who are either untouched and “primitive” in their ways or driven to viciousness by the “enlightened” westerners. By the standards of 1980’s shock, Deodato’s film is known for its realistic use of gore and impalement, but Cannibal Holocaust is also a work of criticism. It follows bloodthirsty western documentarians who are soon found guilty of staging violence for their cameras, driving the natives to attack, and forcing the audience to wonder who the savages really are. Filmed in a pseudo-documentary, cinéma vérité style, Deodato attempts to make the consumer a participant in the media-gore.

Our real friends are also our numbered friends, and their avatars and digital identities are supposedly theirs. We know them as beings with bodies, affecting actual space; therefore, we are subject to the unbearable state of being perpetually in-the-know.
Seen in total, the cannibal boom era is interested in the “other” in film, mass-media exploitation, consumption, the rational, and the savage. Humanity is questioned, or differentiated. Deodato criticizes the cannibalizing powers of media and network television that exploit the horrors, the gore, and violence of the civilized, or socialized, world. Beginning with Italian mondo-films of the 1960s, like Mondo Cane (Cineriz, 1962),[31] this pseudo-documentary style shocks the viewer, and it is the logical precedent to Faces of Death (Aquarius, 1978),[32] and today’s very real Bestgore.com, who are too impatient to stage death.

On the other hand, the pop-zombies I have been referring to are made famous by filmmaker George A. Romero, beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968). Various explanations are given to the origin of these zombies, none of which is voodoo, i.e. the classical zombie. Instead, germ warfare, or accidents in science, has spread what has come to be known as the zombie plague. Zombies are the dead, whose lifeless corpses somehow walk again, but devoid of their personality and memory, other than an innate need to feed, a hunger for the flesh of living humans.[33] Romero’s early trilogy, ’68, ’78, and ’85[34] periodize their messaging, from racism, to consumerism, and the military-industrial complex. They are a warning of what humans are becoming.

What are we becoming? Surely not the cannibal since it refers to the “other” in a way that invites the character of the unknown stranger. We are not strangers; we are all friends. Instead, the zombie plagues the network, part body part germ-warfare, machine-like in its programming, it shares its brand of information, and it does so as a recognizable body, albeit undead. It could be a family member, brother or sister, friend, or enemy –they are all the same now. It is familiar in how it shares, like an online public profile, spread too wide and too deep. It is forced to forever walk with nothing but a burning hunger to feed and share.

In that case, who really is dead my cousin or me?

Epilogue: MyDeathSpace, New-Zombiism & Network Tele-vision

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Myspace, the first successful social network[35] of the social web, persists but as something closer to a monument to the living dead –pure nostalgia and already retrofied.[36] It is but a shell of its former glory, though it remains in the network, live. Its standards, community and vernaculars helped influence Facebook’s current glory.[37] The icon of your first friend, Tom,[38] is but a digital death mask that persists today. Myspace’s success resulted in MyDeathSpace.com,[39] an online obituary of those social networkers who have died. On the website, a blurb is posted explaining an individual’s demise, followed by a link to their social media profiles. The “My_Space” of MyDeathSpace is no longer a reference to only those dead on the former social network of choice, but to all those dead in network-space. MyDeathSpace has since adapted, and followed the living and the dead to the successful Facebook. Social networks come and go, but death is immortal.

Virilio’s tele-vision is hard to argue against. Personal and social spaces have conflated, problematizing public and private identities and security, most of which we freely or wantonly allow although the social pressure blackens our intentions. We self-surveil to no end, and we perpetuate the new social as more real, more interactive, more local, with Project Glass, Google’s social web augmented reality head-mounted eye-glasses, supposedly putting you back in the moment. Today, new real-death results in a dead man’s bell as your mobile death app alerts you to the who, what, where, when, and why of the deceased and directs you to their social media profile(s). You may now voyeuristically read what friends have to say about the dead –a digital necrophiliac.

Virilio writes:

"To prefer the illusions of networks – drawing on the absolute speed of electronic impulses, which give, or claim to give, instantaneously what time accords only gradually – means not only making light of geographical dimensions, as the acceleration of rapid vehicles has been doing for more than a century now, but, above all, hiding the future in the ultra-short time-span of telematics ‘live transmission’. It means making the future no longer appear to exist by having it happen now. No future…"[40]

Welsh artist Rhys Himsworth’s installation New Life (2008), consists of a cardiograph and laptop reprogrammed to gather data from MyDeathSpace which allows the cardiograph to print images of the dead. The cardiograph paper print-out steadily builds throughout the installation, folds and folds gather along the floor, filling whatever space it is currently housed in. Ironically, it is as if even Himsworth’s attempt at infusing new life into the digital dead instead results in an even more clinical, cold, and technological representation. The artist uses old-media, black on white print technology in an art gallery, a closed-in institution, to honor or exploit the dead. The cardiograph monitors the state-of-the-network. Left alone in a gallery, it expels the faces of the living-dead, who in an act of inversion now appear more real online.

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CITATIONS
[1] Unknown scientist debating on television post-zombie apocalypse. He says, “The normal question, the first question is always, are these cannibals. No they are not cannibals. Cannibalism in the true sense of the word implies an interspecies activity. These creatures cannot be considered human. They prey on humans. They do not prey on each other. That’s the difference. They attack and they feed only on warm flesh. Intelligence? Seemingly little or no reasoning power. But basic skills remain of more remembered behaviors from normal life… I might point out to you that even animals will adopt basic use of tools in this manner. These creatures are nothing but pure motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept of these are family members or friends. They are not. They will not respond to these emotions.” Dawn of the Dead, directed by George A. Romero (1978; Laurel Group Inc. /United Film).

[2] “After Death, Protecting Your ‘Digital After-life,’” NPR, January 10, 2011, http://n.pr/i7Qtp5. Also, the story of e-mails being sent from a dead man’s account and how you too can set this up, “Emails sent from dead man’s account helping family and friends find closure,” Yahoo! News, March 14,2012, http://yhoo.it/A4Gqis. There one can find links to Digital Beyond, who offers after-life digital services. Visit, http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/.

[3] Chris Anderson, “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet,” Wired, August 2010, http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/.

[4] Kevin Kelly & Gary Wolf, “Push!,” Wired, March 1997, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.03/ff_push.html.

[5] Jeremy Vanderlan, “Mobile Internet Use Surpassing Desktop Internet Use by 2014,” Aids (blog), October 11, 2011, http://blog.aids.gov/2011/10/mobile-internet-use-surpassing-desktop-internet-use-by-2014.html.

[6] Anderson.

[7] Anderson explains, “Today the content you see in your browser — largely HTML data delivered via the http protocol on port 80 — accounts for less than a quarter of the traffic on the Internet … and it’s shrinking. The applications that account for more of the Internet’s traffic include peer-to-peer file transfers, email, company VPNs, the machine-to-machine communications of APIs, Skype calls,World of Warcraft and other online games, Xbox Live, iTunes, voice-over-IP phones, iChat, and Netflix movie streaming. Many of the newer Net applications are closed, often proprietary, networks.” The Pew Internet & American Life Project presents a more balanced view of the future of the Web and mobile-alternative uses. They summarize: “The Web Is Dead? No. Experts expect apps and the Web to converge in the cloud; but many worry that simplicity for users will come at a price.” And, “Many anonymous responders challenged the structure of the apps-Web question. Among their arguments: The world ahead is not either apps or the Web. A more hybrid world is likely. Moreover, the tussle between controlled content and user experiences on the one hand and openness on the other hand will play out in other ways.” Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, “The Future of Apps and Web,” Pew Internet, March 23, 2013, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Future-of-Apps-and-Web/Overview.aspx.

[8] More problematically is the possibility that the “real you” is the new-avatar, with fantasy and reality mixing.

[9] See Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003).

[10] “Social Media:Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, July 16, 2012, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies.asp.

[11] “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection”, by Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad and Robert J. Smith?. In Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress, eds. J.M. Tchuenche and C. Chiyaka, Nova Science Publishers, Inc. pp. 133–150, 2009, www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/Zombies.pdf.

[12] 146.

[13] As Jeffrey Sconce writes, “Telegraph lines carried human messages from city to cot and from continent to continent, but more important, they appeared to carry the animating ‘spark’ of consciousness itself beyond the confines of the physical body.” Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, (Durham: Duke, 2000), 7.

[14] Jonathan Sterne writes, “Although it is perhaps most pronounced in phonography, death is everywhere among the living in early discussions of sound’s reproducibility. The spirit world is alive and well in telephony and radio…The logic is impeccable –if sound reproduction simply stratifies vibration in new ways, if we learn to ‘hear’ other areas of the vibrating world, then it would only make sense that we might pick up the voices of the dead.” The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, (Durham: Duke, 2005), 289.

[14] Jonathan Sterne writes, “Although it is perhaps most pronounced in phonography, death is everywhere among the living in early discussions of sound’s reproducibility. The spirit world is alive and well in telephony and radio…The logic is impeccable –if sound reproduction simply stratifies vibration in new ways, if we learn to ‘hear’ other areas of the vibrating world, then it would only make sense that we might pick up the voices of the dead.” The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, (Durham: Duke, 2005), 289.

[15] Osbourne was sued in 1986 by the parents of John McCollum, a teen who committed suicide. McCollum’s parents argued that it was Osbourne’s song lyrics for “Suicide Solution” which led to the teen’s untimely death. The successful album Blizzard of Ozz (Epic, 1980) is also famous for containing the song devoted to occultist Mr. Crowley.

[16] Sconce, 62-3.

[17] The website is archived by Wayback Machine, February 3, 1999, http://bit.ly/1b5gIpX, and for press on Houston, visit, http://www.flyvision.org/june_houston/pub/index.html.

[18] In an FAQ Houston is asked, “Is the GhostWatcher all just about art or is it for real?” She answers, “What do you mean ‘JUST about art?’ Are you saying art’s not for real? Can’t it be both? If I told you it’s this or that would it change anything? What part of this stream of bits (I mean the Web) can you trust?” May 4, 1999, http://bit.ly/S7KsqA.

[19] Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, (New York: Verso, 2005), 58-9.

[20] Virilio is most likely focusing on the unquestionable interactivity of this new tele-vision, which offers content creation, for example, as well as the development of personal broadcasts, or “networks.”

[21] Virilio, 59.

[22] Tim O’Reilly breaks down Web 2.0 as: the web as a platform, crowd wisdom and content-creation heavy, perpetual beta, among other characteristics. “What is Web 2.0?” O’Reilly, September 30, 2005, http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html

[23] Named for the Miami MacArthur Causeway where the attack took place.

[24] One headline reads, “Friends of cannibal Rudy Eugene say he was not ‘a face-eating zombie monster’ as police reveal first picture of homeless victim in bizarre Miami attack,” Herald Sun, May 30, 2012, and another, “Ronald Poppo Named As ‘Zombie’ Rudy Eugene’s Miami Cannibal Attack Victim,” International Business Times, May 30, 2012. Visit, http://bit.ly/KbpENz and http://bit.ly/NbZrfa.

[25] Similarly, how can one be “un-dead” and yet not “alive”?

[26] Almost exactly a year later, Poppo continues to recover, amazingly staying positive throughout the ordeal, even recently recording a YouTube video thanking his donors and supporters, “Ronald Poppo, face-chewing victim, still recovering one-year later:Hospital,” CBS News, May 21,2013, http://cbsn.ws/1gQieK3.

[27] Glen McGregor, “References to snuff video made online10 days before suspected date of slaying,” The Ottawa Citizen, June 1, 2012, http://bit.ly/PZWdPF.

[28] Allan Hall, “Fugitive ‘cannibal’ porn star arrested in Berlin internet café…looking at news stories about himself,” Daily Mail Online, June 4,2012, http://bit.ly/KZOP29.

[29] Tristen Hopper, “Luka Rocca Magnotta hunted by online sleuths over kitten videos long before murder accusations,” National Post, January 6, 2012, http://natpo.st/LknwOY.

[30] Some things never change. The Daily Mail Online reports that Magnotta, like infamous killers before, receives and responds to fan mail while in jail, “Cannibal killer Luka Magnotta sets up special fan site so admires can send him letters in jail cell as he awaits trial for dismembering and eating his lover,” August 15, 2013, http://dailym.ai/1aZqc2y.

[31] Directors Paola Cavala, Franco Prosperi, & Gualtiero Jacopetti.

[32] Director Conan LeCilaire, aka John Alan Schwartz

[33] This is not entirely true to Romero’s zombies. Beginning with the famous intro cemetery scene in Night of the Living Dead (1968; Image Ten and The Walter Reade Organization), we quickly notice that the zombie is intelligent enough to pick up a rock and break a car window. Later, Dawn of the Dead refers to the routine of mall-shopping remains, and Day of the Dead’s *1985; Dead Films Inc and United Film Distribution) Bub not only remembers how to shoot a pistol, but dramatically chases and helps murder the antagonist (a living military member).

[34] In this order, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead.

[35] Pete Cashmore, “Myspace, America’s Number One,” Mashable, July 11, 2006, http://mashable.com/2006/07/11/Myspace-americas-number-one/.

[36] Performer Justin Timberlake is now a co-owner.

[37] Myspace succeeded in creating the current comfortable form of the “friends list,” and “friend feed” as a bulletin board, the share, and the ability to make news and be news both on and offline.

[38] Tom Anderson is the co-founder of Myspace (2003), along with Chris DeWolfe. Tom was the default friend on Myspace for new users. He was your first-friend. His default icon, featuring his white shirt, will never be forgotten. He has since left Myspace and even joined Facebook. A 2010 Associated Press story explains: “And in a change that symbolizes it is really putting its past behind it, Myspace co-founder Tom Anderson, a smiling guy looking back across his white T-shirt, recently stopped being every new user’s first friend. Since last month, he’s been replaced by a cleverly named profile, Today On Myspace (T.O.M.), which features new songs, movie clips and celebrity updates and starts feeding into the new users’ stream right away. That leaves new users with a better sense of what Myspace has to offer, rather than leaving them with one friend and clueless, Jones said.” http://buswk.co/QwFUao

[39] Launched 2006

[40] Virilio, 94, author’s emphasis.