I really enjoyed our conversation about the David Foster Wallace essay, and I am excited to read all of your thoughts! I want to talk about his turn to telecommunications at the end of the piece, and his dissatisfaction with the proto-internet as a solution to the problems of TV. Specifically, I’m interested in the way that he frames himself as an entity that is prior to and more real than TV and TC. I think that this is really evident when he explains that, no matter how advanced telecomputing gets, “escape from the limits of genuine experience […] can’t help but render my own reality less attractive (because I’m just one Dave, with limits and restrictions all over the place), render me less fit to make the most of it (because I spend all of my time pretending I’m not in it), and render me ever more dependent on the device that affords escape from just what my escapism makes unpleasant” (75, for me). From this we can see his separation of “genuine experience” from some like “mediated experience” or “virtual experience.”
There are lots of grounds on which he might be basing this distinction, but I wonder how fits with his previous assertions about how fundamental TV is in structuring the way that his generation perceives the world. When he has already established that he can’t view reality in a way that isn’t somehow “cinematic,” I wonder what the utility is in drawing this distinction between real reality and faux reality. Admittedly I am evaluating this in the unfair light of our media landscape today, but I think he misses something when he talks about “my own reality.” What is he trying to distinguish this from? Fake reality? By his own argument, it isn’t really possible to disentangle these two ideas. As soon as I’m a subject in the world, I’m fundamentally made up by the media that I interact with.
I don’t think that this negates any of DFW’s criticism of TV as it was in 1990. Just because it centrally shapes our form of perception doesn’t mean that it does so in a useful way, or that we can’t criticize it. But instead of saying “the kind of world that we create through TV is really shitty, we should try to find better media forms and better ways to engage them,” he says “the kind of world that we create through TV is really shitty, we should try to stop creating worlds through media.” With this approach, his criticism of TC is inevitably a negative one. As long as he is looking for a kind of media that allows him to return to a realer reality free of “artificial enhancement” (75), he is going to be disappointed.
Again, I think that his criticisms of that specific kind of TV and the way we engage with it (6 hours a day) are really useful. But I wonder how we can apply them productively to modern media, rather than just throwing up our hands.