Random Musings On Magic and Technology

Naomi Campbell Photographed by Seb Janiak in “Lighted Darkness” for Glamour Boys Inc

Magic is a funny thing.

At a brunch meeting with Allied Media Conference folks, one of the attendees commented on making IT more accessible: “because everyone starts from zero.”  When we began sharing stories about bad experiences with tech support, Macforums and Genius Bars, someone else remarked:  “It’s like magic.  They wave their hands and its fixed.  But you don’t know how they got there.”

Genius Bars are on par with the DMV on my list of Least Empowering Places To Go.

And the metaphor was perfect.  Every time we enter words into a Google search, we are visiting an anonymous diviner, asking them to read our palm and guess (using the clues we unwittingly give them) what it is we really need to hear.  The average Google user doesn’t know how an online search works.  And we might not always trust the answers Google gives us, but absent a good counter-argument, most of us leave the page resolved to accept what we heard.

Those who code are something like oracles, dealing in 21st century runes and hieroglyphs, praying the gods of net neutrality will answer.

Or–if knowledge is power and the symbology of html is only one way to invoke it–they are the closest thing alive to wizards.  And Steve Jobs is their Merlin.

Magics, literacies, intelligences and technologies.

I know there are political economy folks who would discuss technology, knowledge and specialization in terms of capital, capitalism, commodities, markets and productive bodies.  But the Sable Fan Gyrl also recognizes the mystical, and the mystery of smoke and mirrors that makes certain people invisible and gives others power.

Either way, is there such a thing as “tech justice?” If there is, it’s about more than providing access.  It’s about making that access meaningful and sustainable by redistributing tech knowledge.

In other words, helping wizards become commoners and commoners become gods.

Jeezus.  I sound like an N.K. Jemisin novel.



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