The Small Machine Talks, Episode 25-B
with a.m. kozak and Amanda Earl
Recorded Sunday, December 3, 2017
Part 2 of our interview with Guillaume Morissette
In this session, we discuss Guillaume’s book, the Original Face, published by Véhicule Press this year. If you have a copy of the book, you should have it handy for this interview.
Aaron’s fascinating interview with Guillaume Morissette covers today’s Internet habits and how they affect society within the context of his novel. We discuss the ramifications of technology and having to maintain an online presence in the Capitalist system. Guillaume talks about how characters in the book romanticize early Internet aesthetics based on the limits of technology, information overload, use of hyperbole for marketing in book publishing, click bait.
The Orville comes up, as it should. Also Black Mirror, which Guillaume says is one of the rare instances of a program that looks at the dark side of technology. Aaron recommends Season 3, Episode 1. We get into self-driving cars, the responsibility of tech creators and innovators. What if social media existed in the age of the atomic bomb?
Amanda learns from Guillaume that you can buy followers on social media. People are monetizing their social media, for example live game playing and being rewarded for not taking care of themselves. The book deals with freelancing and internet art. The novel’s characters experience hypercapitalism, which have consequences. In the book, he advocates about a decentralized internet where we get away from centralized systems, which give biblical power to corporations like FaceBook.
Aaron asks about the book’s similes and metaphors where physical things are compared to the digital. Guillaume explains that the term the original face is from Zen Buddhism, what did your parents’ faces look like before you were born? your consciousness comes from somewhere. The protagonist, Daniel, has a collection of zen Buddhism books and is thinking about this concept throughout the book and incorporating it into his artwork. Guillaume draws parallels with late capitalism where we’re encouraged to always do more. We talk about social media as a curated reality. Aaron talks about mindfullness as a treatment for anxiety.
Guillaume discusses his life before living in Montreal, in Quebec City where life was quite competitive. In Montreal, he’s moved a lot and cultivated a life of fewer material goods.
In the novel, there’s a blur of the boundaries between physical and digital realties. Guillaume talks about how that distinction is disappearing. We talk about tracking through smart phones, the Apple Watch. We discuss the Simms, virtual reality. The novel also covers climate change and procreation, examples of things that always tie us back to the physical world.
Aaron asks whether opting out of social media has become an existential decision. Guillaume says this is mostly a North American issue because Europe, for example, has better privacy laws. What are the implications of employers being able to check out a potential employee on social media? Having more control over our data may resolve some of these issues. Our lives can be sabotaged by social media shaming. There are companies that handle representation management.
Even in Canada, Guillaume points out, strategies developed by American corporations on US politics affect us too. Income is often tied to one’s social media presence. Guillaume appreciates some aspects of social media such as being invited to invents, but otherwise it’s a dumpster fire. Amanda uses social media to find fellow misfits.
Aaron talks about the novel’s characters ideas to create anti-content on the internet as perhaps more of a statement. Guillaume discusses opting out by not having a phone if you can find a way to survive and aren’t penalized in the capitalist system.
We talk about Newfoundland, which is one of the book’s settings. It’s Viagra for writers, a magical place. In the book, Newfoundland adds a different perspective, is least related to the internet. Guillaume talks about Grace and Daniel’s relationship. The two main focuses for Daniel are trying to make it as an artist and freelancing. Banal life goals like getting married and having kids become impossible fantasies thanks to capitalistic limitations, such as the need to live in cities, not being able to save money and how this puts pressure on relationships. The book taps into that reality.
Aaron muses about whether artists not experiencing instability can create. Guillaume points out that the novel, while not being autobiographical, does draw from real life. Aaron finds creating art different now that he has a stable job. He wonders if he can tap into the same tension and if having a stable job changes one’s identity as an artist.
The novel asks the question of whether being an artist is self-destructive. Guillaume asks us this question. You’ll have to listen to the episode for our answers.
The Original Face by Guillaume Morissette
Darcie Wilder – literally show me a healthy person
The Onlife Manifesto: Being Human in an Interconnected World
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson