Image Source: Mac Tonnies Website.
On May 14, a blog devoted to the memory of the late Mac Tonnies, Post-Mac Blues, posted a fascinating piece (here) about how Tonnies's work lives on on the Web. It refers to a German 3sat television production (which you can see here) that mentioned Tonnies as an example of a growing Millennial problem. This connundrum will be unique in the history of humankind, and will start when the Internet generations - X, Y and Z - begin to die. What will we do with the Web content legacies that once-active online users leave behind?
Because Tonnies was so young when he tragically passed away at the age of 34 in 2009, and he also had a strong online presence, his death highlights this problem. The information that remains - his reviews, his Website, his blog Posthuman Blues, his tweets, and so on - act like a Platonic shadow.
Many films around the turn of the Millennium dealt with the gnostic idea that the camera can act like an objective, outside observer, which tells us the real truth beyond our subjective perceptions. The same might be said for the Internet. What comes from us as subjective reflections, tweets, Facebook updates, and e-mails can be later compiled into an objective existence of a 'self' beyond the Self. This legacy somehow transcends the previous characteristics of personal records and private papers. There really is a ghost in the machine now. I do not know how archivists and historians will even begin to grapple with the problem of sorting through the mess of pseudonyms, avatars and daily info-junk that everyone online now generates. Nor can I imagine how our online presences will be interpreted as historical documents.
Ironically, some Baby Boomer proponents of radical anti-ageing concepts have suggested that downloading our consciousness into an online virtual reality will be the best way to live on after we die physically. See my post on the idea of mind uploading, here. Will this really free us from the incessant tension between the concrete world and our consciousness? Is some virtual reality corner of the Internet going to become the dimension that houses a billion disembodied souls, forever? Here's to the freedom of our shadows in broad, sunlit uplands ...