Since I started talking now, I know you are expecting for something to happen. And that something might be more than reading. But reading is all I am going to do. Warning: it might get boring. Feel free to go to your laptops and mobile phones trying to avoid being fully present in here. It is possible to be in another place at the same time. We can live on more than one place at the same time. Our minds can travel and go floating around in space creating infinite autofictions and evolving in parallel realities. But, if you can, try to resist the boredom you will feel. Maybe, and just maybe, if we embrace boredom with open mind it may allow us to discover something new.
So, basically, I look at boredom as a state in which one wants to be engaged in some meaningful activity but cannot, producing some existential vacuum that manifests both with restlessness and lethargy. So, we need some meanings. Since we live in a “personalized society”, a society which is typified by the breakdown of collective meanings, the colonization of the “public” by the “private,” the disappearance and fragmentation of the public sphere, how can we find meanings? Where are the meanings? I think we cannot live without finding them. If so, can we know where we stand? Can we choose what to fight for? Can we be critical? I believe we can find meanings by embracing boredom. Boredom as way to listen to ourselves, to allow a voice from within to become manifest. Even bored and alienated, we still have a voice. We’re still here. We exist and we are in this journey together trying to create common fictions for the future.
And nowadays this journey is full windows for the world, not the physical ones at our homes, but virtual ones from which we may connect with the world, creating new notions of time and space. The virtual world is an incorporeal world in which we live as fragmented subjects, void of bodily form, by overcoming the limitations of physical space. This creates new possibilities of interactivity that can enable people to influence the reality that surrounds us. The information society, digital technologies, cyberspace, virtual reality create new possibilities for the formation of individual identity and the shaping of social solidarity. So, in a way, the Internet is the modern mean to establish a sense of community. And the virtual space is a new civilization emerged through our digital interfaces and human-nonhuman mediations. It is a huge infinite space in which we can transform ourselves from our physical constraints, allowing new interactions, perceptions and ways of existing. Then, it is a new way to conceive and understand meanings.
The digital possibility is there. But the question is how we are approaching it. Maybe that space is so big that we can easily get lost without finding a way back home. The voices produced by digital communication are so numerous today that they are now a roar of indecipherable noise. References get lost inside themselves. Knowledge and ignorance value the same. Make up tutorials have more visualisations and comments than terrorism in the Global South. Narratives and interpretations emerge in a world without shared facts. Everyone has their own facts. Subjectivity increases. Facts are for scholars only. We want stories. But short stories really. Straight stories because we don’t have the time to follow everything. We rather have images. Images offered by a digital communication that create a reality that replace another reality and confuse ideas of truth. The truth is irrelevant since we live in the post-truth era. More than citizens, or consumers, or even people, we are mainly users in this digital world.
And I know that we have this talk of image consumption and indifference since the TV arose. But the issue remains. Maybe it is even harder because we’ve been missing empathy for a couple of decades now. This digital world can be the last step of growing automation that could set us free from labour, money, competition and the traps of neoliberal interactions, fostering our capacity to engage in meaningful interactions for us and for the world we live in. So, the thing about digital culture is not just about technology. I think it is very much about new power dynamics that these changes are creating. Technology, politics and media do not exist in isolation. They work together. They are in an open polyamorous relationship and it works for them. They shape society, society shapes them in return. Understanding this is crucial. And the big difference between TV and internet is participation. We have the chance to have a bigger voice on the internet, even considering all the existing limitations. As we users we’re all civic actors. Together we are civil society and we construct the civil society that we want. If we are more equals in this digital world, we must become more responsible. We cannot delegate no more. If it is about power and holding power, it is also about fighting for a public space, for creating the environment in which we interact as people. So, in a way, we’re all responsible for creating the world we live in.
Ok, I’m finishing here. Everything is evolving so fast with technology, including machine intelligence, advanced robotics, unmanned vehicles, pilotless drones, machines that can instantly translate hundreds of languages, crypto-currencies, other technology that create new relationships between doctor and patient, teacher and student, media and people, and so on, that sometimes I think we forget to question our role as individuals in the society we’re living in.
Embracing boredom is a way to embrace our voice and to take our time for contemplation back, and maybe to ignite meaningful actions. To find time for new encounters. To really look at the other. Boredom may be our ultimate weapon to fight back and to respond to harmful social situations. We need to take control of our own evolution. As Isaac Asimov said about the future: we cannot leave it to scientists (I would add to ceo’s and to politicians)…
I think we need to stop, to slow down, to find our own time in this fast world, being able to develop empathy for the other. Understanding what is different from us takes time and effort. We need to create conditions for new encounters and for new connections in order to shape the future we will have.