Have you guys ever heard the term “meatspace”? In case you haven’t—cause I hadn’t—the idea is that, more and more, we operate in the digital world and the physical world. Because more and more of life takes place online for so many of us, it becomes necessary for a distinction between the reality that we operate within online and the reality we inhabit with our physical bodies.
“Meatspace” (which always makes me picture ground beef in my clothing) is where we are. It is where we eat our food and wear our clothes and read our books. It’s wear we drink and sleep and reproduce. Cyberspace, on the other hand, is a space in which the physical realities of the human condition can be compressed. Distance becomes, in many senses, meaningless. Realities like weight (like in the case of books) can be minimized to the point of nonexistence (ex. books vs. eBooks).
Something I’ve been finding interesting in my publishing program is that there’s tacit, possibly/probably unintentional, minimization of “meatspace.” Even the term “meatspace” can be seen as somewhat pejorative. That’s part of what I think is so strangely perfect about it. It seems almost derogatory towards the physical state of being.
The fact is, we still live in meatspace. We still perform the acts that sustain our lives in meatspace. Until we hook into the matrix, that will be an undeniable fact of human life. We are in meatspace, and the majority of our largest problems are there, too.
There’s a problem of multiplicity in publishing right now. There is just so much stuff, so much fiction, so many essays, so many blogs and books and badgers (honey badger don’t give a fuck) to demand our attention. Before the explosion of ePublishing, there were already more books in the world than any one person could read in a lifetime. We have more movies, more televisions shows, more pictures and pieces of artwork than we could ever have the attention for and even if we did, mankind has a notoriously shitty memory. So when is it enough? And, with so many services moving into the cyber, how do we continue to exist in the meat? How do we orient ourselves in the reality of physical distance when cyberspace has the capacity to compress those distances, at least for some of the senses? And how do we sustain ourselves?
I think it’s the issue of sustainability that is nagging at me, and contributes greatly to my various existential and/or quarterlife crises. I personally think that everything is cyclical, and that we’re in a cycle of change. Gutenberg’s press prompted a cycle of change in publishing, and I think we’re in another one now. Not just in publishing but in many, many fields. Something that we’ll have to figure out along the way is how the cyber and meat relate to one another, how they connect to one another, and how they can sustain one another.
In my class today we talked about how the cultural capitals of the past always had a surrounding hinterland. Paris was surrounded by vast stretches of sparsely populated agricultural areas, London had places like Manchester to sustain the rapid growth and cultural consumption. Someone argued that Silicon Valley was/had been the cultural capital of the technological era, and that it had the world as it’s hinterland. But how do you live in that hinterland? We’re in the strange position of privileging the local as far as meatspace goes, and seeking employment in cyberspace. There has been a systemic devaluation of things like books, just because of the sheer number of books being produced, and it has negatively impacted the possibility of the existence of a career creative. But then, the career creative is a recent occupation. Some of the most famous artists of the past were starving, or had the patronage of politically/socially/economically powerful figures, some of them highly questionable in character. So maybe it’s just another cycle, another pattern being repeated. Everything is a remix.
I don’t have any real conclusions about this right now, this is a stream-of-conscious ramble on a topic that has been weighing on me.
If you have any thoughts/contributions/etc. let me know in the comments!