I read an article yesterday about things that would be obsolete to babies born this year. I read it, expecting to find things like landline phones, VHS, and the like.
Instead, the journalist claimed the imminent death of, among other institutions, books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, DVDs, maps, watches, and ‘remembering things’. Because why bother to remember anything when you can just pull out your iPhone and Google it?
What bugs me so much about articles like these is not so much the glorification of technology – because let’s face it, texting is a fabulous invention – but the disregard of actual human beings as more capable and resourceful than machines.
One might say, why ask a person for directions when you can ask a GPS? Why run an essay past a human editor when you can run a grammar/spell check? Why bother shopping at a physical store when the ubiquitous Amazon offers recommendations with every purchase?
I’ve chose to illustrate my point by focusing on this last phenomenon – the complete and utter FAIL that is online recommendation, or the ‘you may also like’ button.
I like iTunes. I don’t exclusively shop there, but it’s handy for discovering things, sampling songs, and having to invest very little in artists I have no stake in. I do not, however, ever use the ‘Genius’ application, the ‘Just For You’ section on the front page, or the ‘Others Also Bought’ list. Why? Because iTunes doesn’t get it.
It’s no secret that I am a huge Adam Lambert fan. In fact, I buy songs of his on iTunes that I’ve already purchased physical copies of just to increase the demand for the song [shut up – you know you do it, too]. So there are a lot of Adam Lambert songs in my ‘purchase history’. iTunes knows this.
What iTunes doesn’t know is that I’ve never watched an episode of American Idol in my life. [Well, maybe there was that one episode last season when Adam mentored the contestants. Yeah.] Still, they give me names like Jordin Sparks, Chris Daughtry, David Cook, and I think, who the fuck are these people, and why do I care? Because they were on American Idol? Really? [My love for Kris Allen, in this case, is admittedly a fluke.]
iTunes doesn’t get it. When I say I adore Adam, what it SHOULD say is, OH! You love crazy, campy rockstars, glam and glitter, X Japan, hide, Bowie, pyrotechnics, guitar solos, Queen?
YES! I love things over the top, tarted up – Adam fucking Lambert, not Chris Daughtry and his Creed-like crooning.
I have the same issue with search functions that assume, because I enjoy certain Japanese bands, that I will enjoy ALL Japanese bands. Er, try again. I love me some Miyavi, but Nightmare is boring as hell. I adore D’espairsRay, but Orange Range still sucks.
Another example: book websites, like Amazon, and even my beloved bn.com.
Kaori Yuki is my favorite author. She is the greatest storyteller in the world. She also happens to write Japanese-style comics, or manga.
When I plug her into a book recommendation function, the suggestions I get are exclusively manga – boy-crazy, girly, ridiculous manga with talking penguins and high school drama and sports-related suspense. But manga is a medium, not a theme.
I read Kaori Yuki – I do not want to read about high school crushes. I read Kaori Yuki – I do not want to read Fruits Basket [lord save me from Fruits Basket]. I read Kaori Yuki! Warped myths, violent fairytales, blasphemy, incest, resurrection, zombies, aborted tentacle babies! I want stories similar to these… Bill Willingham’s Fables, perhaps, or H.P. Lovecraft, early Eliot poems, Francesca Lia Block’s interpretations of Beauty as a beast. Even William Faulkner, if we’re going with the incest theme.
But the rec generator, of course, doesn’t get it.
Half the reason I still drive down to Cinefile video for DVD rentals instead of indulging in the laziness that is Netflix is because I walk in, say hi to Sebastian, and ask him what warped movies he’s seen lately. He knows me, see – I’ve been renting there for years. He gets it. He knows I like disturbing films with philosophy and bite. And he’s almost always right.
Call me crazy, but I prefer Sebastian and the ‘Holy fucking shit!’ selection at Cinefile to an automated Netflix horror sampler.
Computers, as useful as they are, do not get it. And I’m not sure I want to be around when they do.