- Albert Einstein
Here’s a video I did to help raise funds for an art piece for kids that I’m working on through my non-profit, Trade City. Search your heart, and I think you will find that backing this project is just the kind of thing you’ve been needing to do.
No, Google. As a matter of fact, I would not like to use my full, legal name for all my Google related activities.
Yes I am sure.
I know you want to add a unique identifier to my valuable goldmine of personal data. You’d just love to put a name to that person who wanted to know the hours of the glow-in-the-dark mini-golf place, or the one who did a street view of the Target parking lot. And wouldn’t you be surprised to learn that it was me who was asking how long it takes to steam an artichoke? But you never will.
I know how much you salivate at the thought of taking all that data and lumping it together with the juicy demographic tidbits you can glean from my Facebook page and LinkedIn profile to create a single unified dataset that you can sell to your advertising partners and sell again to all those market analysts around the world. But like Batman until he meets a girl, or Superman wearing glasses, my true identity will forever be enshrouded in mystery. To you, I will remain nothing more than an anonymous IP address lurking in the shadowy corners of your data mine.
But why not make life easy, you ask? Why not just consolidate all these online IDs into one user name that’s as easy to remember as my own? I will tell you why not. I will tell you why not in a rambling tirade:
When all this began, this world-wide web that you’ve managed to corral into a searchable database, we were all anonymous – just little floating wisps of non-descript curiosity looking for a breeding ground.
And that anonymity gave us the freedom to build websites that we would have otherwise been ashamed of. Websites about dancing hamsters, the paintings of Bob Ross, our struggles with psoriasis, about midget porn, celery recipes, and our erotic fantasies of Joyce Dewitt. Anonymity is what fueled the renaissance of uselessness, the exponential evolution of electronic shrines to fascinations we barely knew we harbored. We escaped our boring selves and became people like DachMan18 – wiener dog breeding expert, and Cutie_Cal – toenail clipping sculptor. We wielded axes and formed armies in role-playing games, we painted ourselves orange and floated around Second Life while trying to hit on attractive looking Easter Bunnies.
Lest you forget Google, the Internet from whence you spawned was not created by the people we see out in the world, in the light of day, not people with home addresses, driver’s licenses, and real names like John, Leslie, and Martin. It was created by their alter-egos, their hidden selves, the geeky, reclusive part of people that was forced into hiding by the superficial, extroverted world and finally found an outlet, late at night, squinting in front of a glowing screen, hunched over a Dorito-stained keyboard.
But as each little spore of our digital shamelessness sprouted and spawned a million more, the thrill of anonymity dissipated. We got greedy. It wasn’t good enough to just drift into a chat-room, drop an f-bomb or post a faceless crotch shot and escape out the back door. No sir. Someone convinced us we needed to get credit for our “content” and connect it back to our real-world identities. We were lured by the promise that we might drink from the great geyser of ad dollars that you yourselves had begun to spray upon the cash thirsty netizens. Our bank accounts were in our real names, so how else could we convert the tireless hours of CSS coding and GIF animating into cold hard cheeseburgers?
Sure It’s honorable to put your name behind your ill-informed blog posts and pixelated YouTube videos. Attaching your real identity to your online persona is truthful and honest. But it also almost entirely destroys the greatest benefit the Internet has to offer: the freedom to not be ourselves. Like a kid playing with a puppet or a talking about a “friend’s” problem instead of your own, disguise can be the quickest path to real honesty. (And by the way, just because an online persona has a real name doesn’t mean it’s not a fabrication. Just take a look at the pictures and posts by real world friends on Facebook. Are those people really that interesting and are their kids really that clean? No.)
We’re out here building a magnificent fantasyland and you want it to follow the same dumpy rules of commerce and social engagement that we were trying to transcend in the first place.
So no, Google. I don’t want to use my full name. And shame on you for asking.
If you’ve picked up a book by Oliver Sacks or read practically any article about neuroscience, you’ve probably heard the word “synaesthesia” bandied about. In case you haven’t, it’s the phenomenon of sensory responses arising from unexpected sources. Like seeing colors when you hear numbers, or smelling cabbage when you pet a cat.
Besides providing people with another way to feel special about themselves, synaesthesia has shed some light on the anatomy of the brain, by showing us that signals from outside stimuli can “overflow” into neighboring brain regions responsible for un-related perceptions.
For me, the days of the week have always been associated with certain colors, and those colors map to certain numbers. One time in middle school, I woke up and looked at my clock, (it was one of those with the big white flip-numbers) and I read it as 7:04 which, in my head, translated to a bright Tuesday yellow. That meant I had to get up and go to school. So I took a shower, got my lunch ready and walked to the bus stop. The winter mornings in Michigan are quite dark, but for some reason, this one was darker than usual. As I stood there in my snow boots, waiting for the bus, or any of my schoolmates to arrive, I began to wonder what time it was. I had no watch, and the only memory I had of my alarm clock was a flash of yellow. I knew something was wrong, so I went back home to see that I had actually woken up at 4AM – probably 4:07 or some other number combination that elicited the same yellow.
I wouldn’t say I have a serious case of synaethesia (that was the only time it had any direct effect on my life) but it’s strong enough that I could make the illustration above without spending more than a few seconds in the color picker.
Besides being mapped to colors, the days of the week each have specific feelings that accompany them.
- Sunday is calm and glowing.
- On Monday, the week is a great big green balloon filled with possibility.
- Tuesday is the brightest of all days – when there’s still plenty of time to start on all those ambitions that looked so grand on Monday. (If you want to run a new idea by me, talk to me on a Tuesday. I’ll tell you how great it is.)
- Wednesday is the dramatic crescendo of the week, when things either come together or they don’t. It’s the violent, bloody collision between the week’s beginning and end. If the current epoch of the Earth were to be assigned to a day for some reason, it would be Wednesday.
- Thursday is a down and dirty day. A chocolate bar that begs to be eaten.
- Friday is another bright one. A vivid yellow like the sun on the beach. Is it because the word sounds like “fried egg” and I’m picturing the yolk?
- Saturday is like a whale swimming underwater at midnight.
I suspect the feelings associated with the days have more to do with their placement within the week, but the feeling often relates to the color. It makes me think that concept, metaphor, sensation – basically all the cognitive tools of art, and every method the brain uses to create meaning out of nonsense – these things occupy a relatively close-knit neighborhood in the brain – a neighborhood with fences that are easy to hop and buses that run all night.