Introduction no 1
Being, or not, a person who doesn’t like to be told what to do is of no importance; we all succumbed at some point to the button. Being aware, or not, of when the delirium started is of no importance either. At present, the button is triumphing.
The authority of the button in practice: you do when you press it. Yet, this authority goes beyond the physical action on to the power exercised on thought and will of each one of us.
The following text was a brief comment, expressed rather as a question, that was published in a closed wiki last year (2016) as assignment in the course ‘Media Philosophy’. It refers to text as this was the subject of the study; but the visual and the arts are in the same stream.
The comment: the authority of the button
[…] in text-related technologies, we can take as example the structure of the digital text with its multilevel linking; all with the use of the button and the necessary user’s action of clicking.
The button is a technological device that entails simultaneously the option (free choice) and the command (authoritarian behavior). In these two contradictory traits, the first lays the foundation for the second to establish itself. A technology with innate capacity for organizing power and authority seems the only option in a democratic society; seemingly, the authority is diffused to the people that use this technology.
The use of the imperative form, either friendly as in “join, share, like, etc.” or service oriented as in “listen now, download now, go there now, etc.”, and of course more directly commanding as in “buy now”, would not be accepted otherwise; not in politics, nor in social life. Instead, because of being essential to the structure of the specific technology, and through its material carrier, the button, the command has been accepted as normal. In its turn, the authoritarian behavior exercised on individual level, shifts the limits of acceptable authority that can be imposed centrally.
The question arises: is the authoritarian tendency innate to humans so that the central power contains it as much as the technology that they produce?
Introduction no 2
The button has been a peculiar element of modern times. It has been the focus of awe and of mockery since the moment that its use left the industrial terrain and spread in to everyday life. Between Chaplin’s uncontrollable machines in his movie Modern Times (1936) and The Matrix (Wachowski brothers, 1999), buttons became an accessory in the hands of literally everyone.
One push further, the statement ‘Never send a human to do a machine’s job’ (The Matrix) moved from the sphere of the joke to the common belief.
P.S. 1 I had a hard time in the Univ when omitting the conclusion/closure bit, faithful to the inconclusiveness of art. Cause, apart from believing in this as the only possible free area, I considered all my writings as being part of my artistic practice (no conclusions, only open space). That is why this blog post has two introductions; one to start and one to finish, with the question in the middle.
P.S. 2 The front image is a detail from a textile work of mine titled ‘The memory of a nebula’; embroidery with some padded parts.