Incomplete Information, Dependency, and Social Media

Love and Information, the play by Caryl Churchill, is one that requires some digging. No, not actually going outside and digging holes in the backyard as you may have once done, but digging into the context in which the play was written and into it’s unique structure. There are two messages that I received after reading and analyzing the text.

The first message is that today’s society is way too dependent on technology. This message really stood out in the final chapter, and more specifically under the headings “Virtual” and “Facts.” Virtual displayed a conversation between two people talking about one of the participant’s (in the conversation) current relationship. About half way through the section it is evident that the conversation (or argument) is about one of the people’s intimate relationship with their computer. Similarly, Facts displays a “Siri-esque” string of dialogue between a person and their computer, who answers most of the person’s questions with facts. When the person asks the computer “Do you love me?” the computer responds by saying “Don’t do that.” Churchill intended for these scene’s to over exaggerate human dependence on technology to portray her message that if humans continue to rely so deeply on technology it may be detrimental to true human emotion and social skills.

The second message is that today’s society makes assumptions based on incomplete sources of information. Churchill portrays this message by the design of the dialogue in the play. There are countless instances throughout the play in which during a conversation one person does not finish their thought and the other person has already made an assumption based on the other’s incomplete thought. To connect this theme to the real world, many types of social media only display incomplete information. For example, text messages are meant to be short messages that can be sent quickly and are often times abbreviated with terms like “TTYL” and “JK.” Twitter allows people to display their opinions, but holds users to a character limit, so the entry must be fairly short. Snapchat pictures only stay on your screen for as long as the sender wants you to see it. The list goes on and on. All of these social media examples are relevant because society depends on them for information, and that information is extremely limited. Humans naturally make assumptions based on what they know, and if what they know is not the whole truth, then our assumptions will be flawed and inaccurate.

In his book Revolutions in Communication, Bill Kovarik explores how communication has developed over time. In chapter 12 he specifically explores the rise of digital media and the culture that has followed it. He mentions that a reason digital and social media grew so quickly was because “people enjoyed becoming part of a virtual community” (Kovarik 316). With this rise of media and instant communication, came the rise of an information war. Kovarik states that an increase in hackers in the 70’s and 80’s portrayed the message that “information wants to be free” (Kovarik 317). Kovarik seems to have a positive outlook on the rise of technology as he almost praises Twitter for their “culture of generosity,” among other aspects (Kovarik 327). Chapter 12 absolutely relates to Love and Information because of both work’s focus on digital media. Although they are related, I do not believe Kovarik and Churchill are trying to send the same message. Love and Information carries a more negative connotation of social media and the complementing culture, and Kovarik seems to point out the benefits of technology more so than he points out the negative effects.

After reading both works I have a few questions. First, is Caryl Churchill attempting to send a message about what society’s future will be like if we continue our “binge” use of technology? And, second, do you believe that the recent outbreak in technology is beneficial or costly to society?