Jonathan Harris: Do We Feel Fine Or Are We In Crisis?


Jonathan Harris has released his first book, We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotions based on his astounding digital work of art with partner, Sep Kamvar.

I have covered here and here.

Being the Holidays and all, I highly recommend purchasing this book for anyone who is passionate about the intersection of art, culture and the social web.

I also wanted to highlight a recent essay written by Jonathan, titled: Our Digital Crisis.

What’s interesting is the striking contrast in the tone of Our Digital Crisis versus the tone of WeFeelFine. As a web entrepreneur, Jonathan’s thoughts have given me pause and forced my reflection on the state of digital culture in 2009:

The Internet is causing mass homogenization of human identity, making us all look the same.

Most online experiences are made, like fast food, to be cheap, easy, and addictive: appealing to our hunger for connection but rarely serving up nourishment. Shrink-wrapped junk food experiences are handed to us for free by social media companies, and we swallow them up eagerly, like kids given buckets of candy with ads on all the wrappers.

These experiences are sensitive neither to individual humans nor to the human collective, but only to page views and growth (in a corporate, not personal sense).

It is fitting that these companies call their customers “users”.

Our online tools do a great job at breadth (hundreds of friends, thousands of tweets), but a bad job at depth. We live increasingly superficial lives, reducing our relationships to caricatures and our personalities to billboards, as we speed along at 1,000 miles an hour.

We trade self-reflection for busyness, gorging ourselves on it and drowning in it, without recognizing the violence of that busyness, which we perpetrate against ourselves and at our peril.

For the last 100 years—from letters, to phones, to faxes, to emails, to chats, to texts, to tweets—communication has been getting shorter and faster, but we are approaching a terminal velocity.

The momentum of technological growth is too strong for us to prevent it from defining our future. Like it or not, our future world will largely be digital.

Instead of fleeing to the forest, we must find the humanity in the machine and learn to love it. If we decide the humanity does not yet exist there in the ways we expect, then we must create it.

…all of Jonathan’s short essays are excellent: terrific reading and a refreshing perspective on digital culture.  I was especially fortunate to have seen Jonathan and Sep recently and gotten several autographed copies of the new book :)


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