New work from Shawn Huckins and his ongoing An American Revolution Revolution series which explores the combination of 18th century portraiture with tweets, internet slang and emoticons. Previously posted about here.
The brief history of The United States of America so far is bookended by revolution: political and technological. An American Revolution Revolution series explores 18th century American painting and portraiture in context of 21st century lexicons – Facebook status updates, tweets, texting acronyms – that permeate today’s popular culture.
The American Revolution was conceived through an exchange of a few well-formed ideas communicated in person and by handwritten letters. Imagine what George & Co. could have done with the Internet.
Technology influences how much we know and what we believe, as well as how quickly and intelligently we convey our ideas. But does how we communicate govern the value of what we communicate? The physical act of typing very fast on small devices has undeniably impacted spelling, grammar and punctuation, encouraging a degree of illiteracy that has become the new social norm. As goes our grammatical literacy, do our social and cultural literacies follow? What should we make of the fact that the political organization Move-On.org has 109,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook while Justin Bieber has 6 million plus followers on Twitter?
Nearly infinite information delivered instantaneously has so obsessed us with tweets, pokes, buzz words, and status updates that we feel deprived when we haven’t logged in to check out the latest postings or to see who ‘likes’ our status. Who hasn’t panicked at the sight of no bars on their cell phone? We are enslaved to our smart devices, computers, and social networking sites as much, if not more, than by a distant king.
Well-worn are the theories that advancing technology isolates us more, not less, and it is easy to idealize centuries-past life as simpler, more civil, more intelligent and, ironically, more ‘connected.’ The point is, we live in a very different time than our Founding Fathers did, and we would appear to place our priorities in very different places: what entertains our selves versus what serves our society. Clearly a society must be politically free to indulge in the luxury of such introspection. But has the complacency of our political freedom blinded us to the potential our ancestors fought for?
If George could comment today, would he click the ‘like’ button, or post wtf? and then go check his Lady Gaga tweet?