‘Can you survive for 24 hours without your computer?’ asks the Shutdown Day website.
Jack Bauer couldn’t. Here’s the script I’m writing for a season of ‘24′ that takes place during Shutdown Day:
“I can’t, Jack! It’s shutdown day! We’re saving energy and having a flash mob! Do you have a map?”
“Jack, this conversation can’t be happening! This is a VOIP phone! Hello? Hello?!!!”
I’m a fan of movements, of flash mobs, of almost anything that gets people to try thinking and acting differently. Despite being a marketer I’m a fan of Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Day, for example. Getting away from the computer and interacting in person is good. Shutting down to save power is good. No arguments with any of that.
But there is a rich cultural irony in Shutdown Day. My first PC in the dinosaur days was not connected to anything. I did word processing, spreadsheets and games on it. Movements in those days were a mainstream affair. They had to be – unless a lot of people felt the same way you did, it was far too expensive to build a network of like-minded people. So movements occurred where like-minded people happened to be clustered. Proximity spawned both the KKK and the Watts riots.
That changed the day I plugged a 14.4K modem into my PC and launched an application called Trumpet Winsock that let me find information with Gopher, download it with FTP, and engage in what the kids these days call ‘social networking’ via BBSs. And I soon found an application called Mosaic that let me view all this information I was exploring in a graphical form. Mosaic led to Netscape, then IE, then Firefox. Email connected me with people around the world, then IRC, then blogging, then Twitter.
A lot of things changed, but here’s the important one: proximity doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever I’m into – LOLcats, collecting Beanie Babies or Fiestaware, railing against consumerism, coprophagia (don’t look it up), or anything else – connecting to people who share those interests is easy.
Every aspect of Shutdown Day is not only computer-enabled, it’s impossible to execute without computer aid. Looking at their list of actions, here are some examples:
- ‘Register Online’ – How would one get the word out and build community without the Web site? Potential participants aren’t clustered in any one location or around any one set of interests to make reaching them easy. Mass mailing and advertising would be ineffective
- ‘Make video and photos and take a chance to win one of our amazing prizes’ – by submitting that content online, of course
- ‘Communicate’ – they do advocate talking to friends but quickly add a recommendation to discuss it in online forums, blog about it, use del.icio.us, Facebook and Digg
- ‘Organize Shutdown Day Flash Mob’ – via the Web, of course. They’ll post your information on the site so other organizers can coordinate with you, and please submit the video of your event online
- ‘Advertise’ – on your blog, forum or Web page
- ‘Purchase a T-Shirt’ – using our convenient and secure e-commerce platform
I’m pretty sure that Andy Kaufman is dead. But if he’s not, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the mastermind behind Shutdown Day. It’s meta-satire worthy of Andy.
photo by spiritokko