Criticism. Essay. Fiction. Science. Weather.
The Samuel L. Jackson vehicle Snakes On a Plane
has fast become the greatest social lubricant of the year. Especially useful at those moments when awkwardness threatens to bring time to a standstill, "There are motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane" is my modern day "There's no place like home." I have yet to meet an individual whose curiosity is not piqued. Made famous when the screenwriter Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds
, The Black Dahlia
) first mentioned it in his blog, "I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing", Snakes On a Plane has inspired sites such as Snakes on a Blog
, references in Wikipedia
, and definitions in Urban Dictionary
. Bestowed with the snappy, case-sensitive acronym SoaP, Snakes on a Plane has graduated from the subject of a clever Friedman post to become a full-bodied phenomenon. And that's not all. Aside from its obvious kitsch value, the SoaP movement highlights the new and significant discourse between online forums and the physical world.
In order to evaluate the emergence of this new discourse, I find it helpful to call upon the work of the late and great German philosopher Martin Heidegger
. Though Martin did not live his life in the most admirable manner, he was arguably the most significant philosopher of the 20th century. Martin Heidegger's work deals primarily with the issue of home -- what it means to feel at home in the world. The central concept of Heidegger's renowned Being and Time
is "thrownness," the concept that everyone is thrown into a predefined social tradition. Thrownness is the consciousness that humans are born into a world which, through tradition, already understands itself. This tradition, or paradigm, into which we are thrown dictates our range of actions. A certain action seems either rational or absurd based upon our own point of view, our own historicity. Thrownness, in Heideggerian terms, describes the existential inescapability of the human condition.
, was born (or "thrown" into the world) on a sunny and unseasonably warm October day in 1981 in Portland, Maine. A lot of other things were already happening: the Decolonization Committee
was meeting at the UN General Assembly; Neil Diamond had just signed what was, at the time, the most lucrative record contract in history; 10 planes crashed in North America; and children throughout the country were preparing their Halloween costumes. Those born before me were already embedded in a historicity -- a world already fully formed. The date of my birth is important because it describes the time in which I became part of the world which was, and always will be, "already." I am a child of the 80's. This dictates the way in which I see the world and myself in it.
Technology is part of this historicity. As it evolves over time, it enables different kinds of communication, allowing for new modes of discourse and analysis. These changing communications and the discussions they engender make technology an interesting lens through which to examine a society's collective conscious and collective unconscious. When discussing technology, Heidegger highlights the significance of an electrical power station on the Rhine
. He sees impact and meaning in its ability to generate electricity, an energy that is "switched about ever anew." He believes that the emergence of this type of technology -- one which channels energy -- allowed humans to move away from goal-oriented planning and consumption, and onto ordered flexibility. Electricity, in all its dynamism, allows function at a higher level, adapting and responding to change.
Today, the Internet, in all its self-regulating majesty, has replaced Heidegger's Rhine station as the technology that is forever switching our energy anew. Although exceptions like the Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry
do exist, at its core, the Internet has no goal -- taken as a whole it is an unregulated sphere. While it does not fulfill pre-existing desires, it does create new ones. At its highest form, the Internet reflects our society by revealing individuals as pure information. In this sense human beings truly become resources when they are scooped up by this flexible, ever-broadening net. The vantage point Web 2.0 affords its users, allows us to see our lives as significant: they create content. Accordingly, the SoaP phenomenon is an especially valuable example of how the Internet is becoming an increasingly powerful resource and soapbox.
Next week, Ms. Flaherty kicks the theory up a notch for a discussion of Space and Worlds, but don't worry there will still be
Snakes on a Plane and some very special celebrity cameos.