The Bush of Goats

Marc Williams, writer & designer: 'Life's too short for empty slog ans'

ReFryed Celebrity

So, Stephen Fry, national institution and all round good egg, is apparently ‘having a break’ from Twitter. Can’t says as I blame him. His position is surely an intolerable compromise.

What I think is interesting about Twitter is its disavowal of the idea of ‘audience’. It’s not about broadcasting (despite the oft-stated criticism of it that it exists to tell people every tedious detail of your life): it’s about saying. If I want to say something, I am saying it for my benefit, not for that of others. If someone hears it, and says it again or wants to hear what I have to say in the future, that’s nice, but it is not the reason I am doing it. I am speaking for my own satisfaction, not an audience (and if you were to explore my twitter profile, you’d see I don’t really have an audience).

So, I am currently pondering the idea that the act of ‘saying’, in digital spaces, is an expresison of thought. I, Marc Williams, am a complex collection of lots of stuff, but digitally, via twitter, @bushofgoats is just one tiny particle. Nothing I say matters more (or less) than anyone else. I cannot help but be free of ego, amongst so many other 140-string particles. My un-uniqueness is a liberation.

Does this, in fact, make Twitter the dawning of an agglomerated Artificial Intelligence? Hmm.

In Iain Banks’s science fiction novels, he has created what I really hope turns out to be our future: The Culture is a universe-spanning, aeon-wide collection of races who just get on with their own thang. What occurred to me about it, thinking this stuff, was how it has no celebrities within it. And that seems to make perfect sense. What use does an egalitarian collection of billions have for individuals for everyone else to watch and pore over?

But back to Stephen Fry. How to square being a proud node; a sore thumb in an age of supple fingers.

Imagine you are he. You are listened to by nigh-on a million people. Your thoughts, your inconsequential digital utterances, are perceived by this mass not for their being said, but for their being heard. Some of the tiny constituent elements who hear him have projected his celebrity, his non-un-uniqueness, onto themselves and feel entitled to speak to him as equals. But he simultaneously has to manage the brand that is S. Fry across all manner of other, older channels: if he responds (as any good particle is entitled), he is criticized, if he ignores them he is vilified. How can he be both granule and hill together?

And so he is trapped, trying to balance the old idea of celebrity status with the future’s idea of numbers so vast that the idea of being famous becomes ridiculous. Maybe, if we really want to achieve world peace, equality for all, no poor, etc, etc, we have to kill celebrity first. We all need to be nobody, for everyone to be somebody.

And as for Twitter, if I do ever achieve any kind of public fame (please god no) I will be locking my account and permitting only those people I am happy to speak in front of to read my thoughts.



Filed under: Noticing

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November 2009


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