In a recent review of Amin Baraka’s Tales of the Out and Gone, a quote from Heathen Technology at the End of the 20th Century just jumped out to me. It explains so much: “And the people whose metaphor had been stolen could not imagine what was going on.” That’s what has been going wrong – our metaphor has been stolen. By whom or what? By our technology. Comparing the attitudes and ideals of these times with those of the recent past, it is clear that we are in another territority. Problems such as “alienation” were described in the 1960s, but that is nothing compared with the internalization of this new environment in which we live and move and have our being.
Our metaphor, the driving ideal of our lives, has been taken from us, and we no longer have access to it as a well-spring to give purpose and meaning to the day to day. Just as sentimentality was wiped away at the turn of the last century by the modern age, so our former way of being has been erased systematically by the new interactive media, their effects on culture and our currently shared nervous system. McLuhan was all about this understanding of media and its effects, personally and sociologically. In my McLuhan study I learned to leave no turn unstoned in the search for truth, in the query “what is going on?” Perhaps the answer can be found in the querty (which is normally spelt “qwerty”) which is the typo version of query which I had originally typed in. Yes, the old qwerty keyboard, the computer age, the web 2.0 age of the friendster, the blog, the social network.
During my Social Research phase in the 1980’s, when I wrote the book, Documentary Print, I was dealing with just this loss of metaphor, but had been unable to find that exact poetic wording which encapsulates it all. I don’t know whether Amin Baraka meant what I got from the quote – but it certainly communicated directly to me in that moment.