In Adam Gopnik’s recent New Yorker article ”How The Internet Gets Inside Us” (which I totes read on the internet after a friend posted it to my Facebook wall), Gopnik writes that although some believe the Information Age signals a thoroughly distinct, “Never-Better” free and democratic world, and others — the “Better-Nevers” — wish this whole www thing just never happened, there are also those in a third digital camp whom he calls the “Ever-Wasers.” As Gopnik explains:
the Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others — that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment.
Alex and Matt’s hilariously playful NovelPoster just may be the sleek and clever project that visualizes the Ever-Waser theory.
NovelPoster celebrates the evolution of writing by “highlighting five classic novels of literary acclaim and five of the most well-known twitter users.” The posters depict iconic silhouettes from each source, outlined with either the full text from a novel or the accumulated content of a twitter feed.
Gopnik tells us the Ever-Wasers remind the Never-Wasers of medieval and early-modern times when “everyone complained about what the new information technologies were doing to our minds. Everyone said that the flood of books produced a restless, fractured attention,” and that ultimately, “whatever media kids favor will be identified as the cause of our stupidity.”
From Carroll to Kanye, NovelPoster seeks out some of our most famous restless minds, and a few root causes of our fractured attention spans, compacting the last couple hundred years of their combined literary output (including those works of 140 characters or less) into singular two-tone icons.
What — you don’t think Kanye has the literary chops? Just peep his recent Feb 9, 1:30 AM Oscar Wilde-ian trilogy of #manners:
Or last week’s timeless tragedy of infatuation, betrayl, and disappointment:
…er, where were we?
Right. From Caroll to Kanye, NovelPoster may just be saying: Same As It Ever Was.
Then again, if you read Gopnik’s article all the way through (which may prove difficult for some because it’s a full five e-pages, and hey, this author just referred to three successive tweets as a “trilogy”), it turns out he doesn’t quite align himself with the Never-Betters, Better-Nevers, or Ever-Wasers. As Gopnik writes:
the digital world is new, and the real gains and losses of the Internet era are to be found not in altered neurons or empathy tests but in the small changes in mood, life, manners, feelings it creates — in the texture of the age.
Though NovelPoster’s literary choices are full of characters who must reconcile their interior selves with what’s expected from the societies around them, in the Information Age, “everything once inside is outside, a click away.” As Gopnik concludes, we are living in the “age of the inverted self” where “the peril isn’t that users lose their knowledge of the world. It’s that they can lose all sense of proportion.”
Taking a closer look at Alex and Matt’s posters, you get the sense they’re more than aware of that. Maybe the popularity of their posters will impart some of that knowledge on Kanye! (Somebody probably should.) Whichever point NovelPoster makes — and certainly in this age, you needn’t pick just one or even have one at all — perhaps the truth remains as Mr. West puts it best: #WELIVETHISSH*T.