I recently presented a paper at Professor John O’Neill’s Festschrift (literally ‘festival of words’) at York University in Toronto.
Inspired by the tradition of Canadian media theory, and particularly thinkers such as Marshall McLuhan and Arthur Kroker, who have made Canada the home of media analysis, my paper, 'Einstein’s Nightmare', addressed Professor O'Neill's own work on the mass media, which is very much part of this rich history of Canadian media theory. Centrally, I explored the idea of social relations, social responsibility, and what I call social debt through reference to the popular internet meme, 'Einstein's Nightmare' which appeared early in 2013.
As the image to the right of your screen shows, the meme itself concerns the impact of social media, and centrally new media gadgets, on social relations. My key point was that new media potentially undermines social relations and social responsibility and introduces a new form of what I call 'sociality at a distance'. Beyond making this argument, the aim of my paper was to contrast this idea of sociability, which is thinned out, weakly defined, and absolutely provisional, with the mode of relationality defined by gifting, generosity, and responsibility, which characterised my experience of Professor O'Neill's teaching and supervision.
I will present a different version of this paper at the Keele Sociology seminar next week – 30th October – but if you would like to read my discussion of the relationship between the classic media myth, Plato’s Cave, which Professor O'Neill explores in his book of the same name, and Einstein’s Nightmare, you can visit my home page on the academia.edu website. I include my paper on this site in draft form. Full versions of the paper will be available later in the year when I publish the piece in article form.