I've been thinking about Personal Shopper a lot since I saw it last month. The film, the latest from talented French director Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, The Clouds of Sils Maria), is haunting in multiple senses. It's haunting not primarily because it is a ghost story (literally... the opening scene is a haunted house sequence more chilling than anything in the Paranormal Activity films).
The predominance of pop cultural narratives of confined spaces and solitary prisons has got me thinking: Why is our culture so anxious about being boxed in? Isn’t western culture today the freest it has ever been? Isn’t America in the 21st century the place where you can literally be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, as long as it is an authentic expression of your true, autonomous self?
It may be too soon for a "legacy" commentary on Steve Jobs. But part of Job's legacy is that he helped popularize the "having a mobile device that can do everything, from anywhere at anytime" quickness of contemporary communication. His devices helped facilitate the cultural shift toward on-the-go, real-time media consumption. Because of him (and others), we can now hear about news, process it with others and, yes, even write a blog post about it as quickly as we want to. That I'm writing this on my Apple MacBook Pro is not meta irony as much as it is an unavoidable reminder of this man's prodigious legacy and his brand's revolutionary reach. How many of you who are reading this now on an Apple product?
With an iPhone—which contains endless amounts of “task” potential within its aluminosilicate glass frame—“spare time” is a foreign concept, because when the world is literally in your pocket, there’s always something to do. But really, these “things to do” (that they are called “tasks” or “applications” is a clever way to convince us of their utility) are mostly just distractions. The iPhone is perhaps the greatest one-stop-shop distraction-generating device of our time.