“It is hard to resist a technology that is also a tool of pleasure,” write Sarah Leonard and Kate Losse in the new issue of Dissent. “The Luddites smashed their power looms, but who wants to smash Facebook — with all one’s photos, birthday greetings, and invitations?”
That’s on the money. Things do get messy, confused, when the means of production is also the means of communication, the means of expression, the means of entertainment, the means of shopping, the means of fill-in-the-blank. But out of such confusion comes, eventually, simplification, a concentration of effort and effect. Imagine if, at the turn of the nineteenth century, the power loom were also a social medium. In weaving your quota of cloth, you also wove the story of your life and unfurled it in the public eye. Think of how attached you’d become to your loom. You’d find yourself staying late at the mill, off the clock, working the levers and the foot pedals, the shuttle purring. Hopelessly entangled in the threads, you’d demand a miniature loom that you could use at home, and then an even smaller one that you could carry around with you. Every chance you got, you’d pull out your little loom and start weaving, and all around you others would be doing the same, weaving, weaving, weaving.
I have taken my life from the world, you would say, and I have turned it into cloth, and the pattern in the cloth: that is who I am.