My Zombie, My RSS: Our Mutual (Automatic) Friend

January 20, 2011
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We must admit that a recent blog post by Press author Andrew Piper (whose Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age garnered this year’s MLA First Book Prize and generated a rich Booklog of related ephemera) on automated friendships has us thinking.
Piper, who specializes in the intersection of bibliographic and literary communication, from the eighteenth century forward, posted an anticipatory take on Web 3.0 (which, you might argue, may or may not have already arrived) and whether or not the quality of “friendship” will ultimately qualify the information we take in from the socially hotwired interweb.
In light of Chuck Klosterman’s recent NYT‘s piece “My Zombie, Myself: How Modern Life Feels Rather Undead” (“The internet reminds us of this everyday”), Piper frames our contemporary dilemma:

But when you have 500 friends, or follow on average 400 twitter streams per day, is friendship still the best category to think about reading and the exchange of information? The push to make the selectivity of information more automated—algorithms of aggregation, much like Amazon does now with book titles—is likely to show up soon in the world of social networking. It raises the interesting question: what kind of sociability is quantified sociability? “Calculation” of course was precisely the value that was not supposed to belong to “friendship.”

Interesting stuff. Though we’re not entirely certain if digital finesse is the appropriate conduit to rehumanize our relationships (are we already post-apocalypse?), the thought that there’s a paradox at work between emotional and technological intimacy (and their varied returns) is enough to make us a bit more alert when The Waking Dead finally shows up in our automated Netflix on Demand preferences—

“Suspenseful Dark TV Shows that Engender Debate about whether or not Modern Life is a Limit Experience.”

To keep up with all things Andrew Piper, check out The Book Report here.
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