Monday, November 01, 2010

Today Everything is Forever

UXBRIDGE -- Technology is changing society at an accelerated rate and Douglas Coupland wants everyone to stop and think hard about where it's leading.

Mr. Coupland was at the Uxbridge Music Hall Oct. 26 to discuss his most recent work, Player One: What Is to Become of Us, as part of the CBC Massey Lecture series.

This installment of the Canadian series, started in 1961, is a departure from traditional Massey lectures hosted by the likes of Northrop Frye, Noam Chomsky, John Ralston Saul and Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Coupland is best known as a fiction author.

"When I was first asked to do this I was really peeing my pants with worry and fear," he said.

But like previous lectures from prominent contemporary figures who discussed new modes of thinking about important issues, Mr. Coupland said he felt fiction was an equally worthy platform to discuss his ideas about where society is heading.

So in typical Coupland fashion he came up with a apocalyptic novel that takes place over five hours in an airport cocktail lounge during a global disaster.

After reading a passage, he took time to discuss the theme of the novel, the creative process and his numerous projects illustrating the Canadian experience.

He touched on themes familiar in his wide body of work, such as human identity, society, religion, pop culture and the afterlife, but it is the so-called modern crises of time he wanted to focus on for the lecture.

"Just by looking at the way we are changing - time is different, the way we communicate is different," he said.

Mr. Coupland said the most stirring examples are through how technology has increased the pace of change in society.

He noted how quickly answering machines have disappeared, that two billion people in the world are now online and that services once provided by people have been replaced by the Internet.

He talked about the first thing passengers do now when their plane lands is to turn on cellphones to check messages or e-mails.

"Once you reach a certain level of connectedness you can't go back. We should be asking hard questions - we can't act like Pollyannas about it," he said.

While he didn't want to sound alarmist, adding many forms of technology are shaping society in very positive ways, he did issue a warning that humanity in general should question some of the more invasive forms of technology and where it's leading society.

"We've become docile and ditherly," he said.

"Nowadays, everything is forever. In the old days, and by that I mean the 90s, that wasn't the case," he said, adding that once something is online it can exist forever.

The novel, much like the lecture series, is also unabashedly Canadian. Set in a Toronto airport, the characters reference Canadian places and culture, while they watch news feeds from Toronto media about the impending apocalypse.

It also fits in with recent projects Mr. Coupland has dreamt up or was commissioned to do, such as the National firefighters memorial in Ottawa, monument to Terry Fox in Vancouver, biography of Marshall McLuhan, and a Roots clothing line.

"It's a lot of pressure - I feel like going into hiding for a year," he said of his ongoing efforts to illustrate symbols of Canadian identity.

Author discusses technology during Massey Lecture in Uxbridge
Author discusses technology during Massey Lecture in Uxbridge
UXBRIDGE -- International best-selling Canadian author Douglas Coupland, left, chatted with emcee Ted Barris on October 26 at the Uxbridge Music Hall as part of the CBC Massey Lecture series. Mr. Coupland presented his lecture in the form of a novel, Player One: What is to Become of Us, to a rapt audience, reading from the second chapter of his novel. October 26, 2010

Nov 01, 2010 - 04:30 AM

Don Campbell

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posted by u2r2h at Monday, November 01, 2010


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