Personal Jesus

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I remember when I first saw someone on LiveJournal had joined Twitter. ‘What’s the point?’ I wondered, ‘I can’t write anything worthwhile there.’ It’s coming up for eight years now since that attitude changed, and on the main account, I’m well into six figures of content outputted. I’d love to know how much of that is GIF-related. It’s gonna be a bit. I was doing THAT before the company added the UI functionality.

It’s good to know you’re a trailblazer.

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It’s not healthy to dwell on the negatives in your life, everybody. Down that road only stress and anxiety lie. Except, from time to time, it is worthwhile reminding yourself that other people are the ones who take offence at your attitude and outlook, and that’s not your problem, but theirs. When Internet Dinosaurs smell blood, it’s never going to end well. This week, I have been reminded of one person in particular.

Except, the more I examine what happened, the more it became apparent at just how common this behaviour has become. There was a belief initially it was just guys who’d do this until a woman trumped all the male stupidity in the space of 48 hours. The sexual orientation of your idiot is largely irrelevant. What matters is manner in which you are targeted and person’s aim when doing so.

Control is the key to absolutely everything.

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The particular individual in question was unbelievably smart. He began politely picking me up on typos and grammatical errors in my blogs, and as this was a fairly regular occurrence, I was grateful. Then came the moment when we disagreed about my use of question marks in sentences where he was convinced they shouldn’t exist. I accepted his objection, but began to realise that maybe his interest in my work was a bit excessive.

I decided, for the first time, to go look at his followers list and who else he was interacting with. I can still remember how sick I felt scrolling through hundreds of female accounts and pornbots. When examining his interactions, this was taking place with other women, many of them. The behaviour was identical: polite until someone disagreed with taking his advice at face value.

Then he’d go crazy.

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Blocking on Twitter was pretty basic back then, and reporting harassment close to pointless. I can remember being schooled in victim shaming too at that point, because the assumption was that it was at least in part my own fault for not doing my homework beforehand. A smart person would have checked the person I blindly followed before interacting, so it was clear what I’d be signing up for.

It’s a lesson that I’m still learning, even nearly eight years on. You won’t be friends with everybody, and however hard one might try to be polite and adult, some people can and will wind you up the wrong way. Others will decide that you must be talking about them (because everybody else does) whilst a few will be so spectacularly arrogant as to defy belief. The guy whose apology hinged on ‘I’m sorry I stalked you but I was in mental health counselling at the time’ was a classic.

When you speak your mind, other people can get the right hump.

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I find it increasingly fascinating watching other people talk to those I have blocked and no longer interact with. This isn’t the version of reality that used to exist where people would somehow vanish once you’d ignored them. Sure, you can stop reading and listening to those whose outlooks and attitudes were so toxic, but they don’t go away. Nothing bad ever really goes away, it’s about accommodating personal change to deal with those consequences.

The irony, of course, is that occasionally the people who have serially being attacking and abusing people do get caught, and they do end up in the spotlight. I can think of several occasions where that’s been the case: the rush of amazed indignation from some quarters being staggering. People rarely talk to each other any more on Social media, except in very well established friends groups. If they did, an awful lot of behaviour would be on borrowed time.

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I have a lot of social Twitter followers now: they don’t talk, but use the account to read other stuff. The interactivity portion of online proceedings takes place elsewhere: Slack, Twitch, Discord… but not out in a medium that historically can do far more harm than good. That’s a massive lie, of course, and even after multiple incidents of drama, arrogance and abhorrent behaviour, there’s nowhere else I’d want to hang around in.

Me and Lin-Manuel understand the future of Social media’s only a tweet away.

The Revolution will Not be Televised

DAY 5: We interrupt our scheduled wibbling for the first of a series of planned observations of reality. This Saturday? It is time to remind you all about the concept of TRANSMEDIA and how, in the space of a week, that concept has utterly altered the entire course of entertainment.

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Bandersnatch is a work of undoubted genius, created by Charlie Brooker who remains right in the front carriage of the Sci-Fi Alternate Futures ARE STILL COOL EVEN IF THEY’RE FUCKING SCARY Hype Train. However, let’s be clear, other people have been doing this shit for years: ‘choice’ in fiction has existed in video games, books, even films for quite some time, well before this Netflix original came along. Working across platforms isn’t new either…

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So, why is everybody so excited? In the simplest terms, Brooker’s the first person to shove on a particular set of wheels and throw engine into the chassis that’s been crying out to be redesigned since it became apparent what computer code can do if you tell a story with it. Here is the fuel of pretty much every Sci-Fi future: one screen provides all. The thing that presents both news and offers entertainment also grants possibility to alter and shape reality as you see fit. Given the building blocks of a story, each individual gets to decide both victor and reward, with thousands of possible variant versions.

Television ascends again as the ultimate serotonin delivery device.

The bigger irony right now, of course, is that if you try and access Bandersnatch through the smartest of smart TV’s, you’re met with a compilation of Black Mirror protagonists from series past apologising that ‘sorry, you can’t watch this episode on this device.’ If you want true interactivity, go watch TV on a Tablet, phone, PC, Laptop or Games console instead. The one TV ‘drama’ that will redefine storytelling going forward cannot be viewed on a dumb, flat screen.

Overnight, everybody’s non-code operated gogglebox got rendered totally and completely obsolete.

Gil Scott-Heron was a visionary, and non net-savvy TV companies might have a bit of a problem going forward. Well, not a problem per se, but organisations such as Sky will be looking long and hard at their set-top boxes, realising that catch-up TV is great and all that but they are yet again behind the curve. The day Netflix launch their fully interactive rival in collaboration with Disney and UEFA all bets are off as to what you’ll want linked up to the ‘TV’.

The future is no longer sending signals to a screen and expecting that to be enough.

Suddenly, TV has the opportunity to combine everything in the one place you want it. No more PC’s in the corner of a room: run it from the widescreen HD central screen, transfer it to a tablet before taking it everywhere. One core processor unit oversees and dictates every form of interactivity in your house. That same Home Entertainment Unit is Alexa’s search facilities and Siri’s voice combined with choose your own drama shows, themostatic controls plus lighting dimmer switches, with the kids homework and your favourite FPS, all voice activated.

Esports will vie for prominence with real sports, but not watching teams of young people competing via controllers. Live sports provide an unexpected new industry : all computer sports games will sign deals with broadcasters to provide means by which players can allow their favourite team to win both Cup and League. Interspersing historical footage with computer generated graphics so real, you’ll never notice the difference and suddenly, choose your own outcome versions of every sporting event in history becomes possible.

There will be a backlash, of course: Traditionalists will shun all new style visual media and return to VHS, Laserdiscs and DVD’s as the only version of entertainment that matters. Books will become their own unique currency, with people hand-producing their own versions of great historical novels with unique, personal twists. Then, there are those who’ll have original TV signals directed directly into their optic nerves, eventually choosing to spend the rest of their existence

only as brains in jars…

As a writer, it’s fun to consider the consequences of things such as Bandersnatch in a wider context. Undoubtedly, the effect of social media on news and entertainment is beginning to alter how the collective consciousness absorbs information. With such new possibilities on the horizon, conventional TV will have to undergo some fairly significant changes in order to embrace such technologies, but if there’s enough demand, it will happen.

Old style TV units and broadcasting mediums are on notice. Aerials on houses will become a thing of the past. Everything is heading towards a future where ‘smart’ and ‘interactive’ beat everything: whether that’s through a fibre connection or via satellite is yet to be decided. The next year also gives Netflix, Amazon and the digitally native platforms a massive advantage over traditional TV. If I were Disney, for instance, I’d DEFINITELY be looking at launching my own dedicated streaming service to take advantage…

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Expect a Disney ‘make your own TV show’ very soon indeed, and once they start it, we’re all doomed.