A few weeks ago, I wrote about the thin line between civility and chaos. Most of these experiences involved technology in one form or another. Also, most of these involved public spaces and people’s interactions with them.
The first was the customs kiosks at the airport. At three in the morning, they opened the doors to customs and we had to first input our information into these machines. All at one time, the screens of about fifty machines flickered off and stopped working. I watched as a large group of people all of a sudden had minds that went completely blank. What do we do in the face of technology that decides it no longer wants to work? Or at least, work in the way we expect it to?
Another time was at an intersection along Queen Street West. A glitch in the system must have happened which stopped the light from changing to green going in the north and south direction. A group of people had slowly started building at the intersection, waiting for the walking signal to turn, so they could cross the street. Canadians are polite up to a point. After a certain amount of time had gone by, and a large enough group had formed, people just decided to cross the street. Chaos ensued, cars slammed on breaks and horns blared. Middle fingers were exchanged.
That was all fine. This time it was personal.
At home, I opened Spotify on my iPad and flipped to my most used playlist at the moment - Queen. I’ve gone on long enough about Queen, so I don’t have to do that here again. I’ve always liked Queen, when I get into a phase, that’s all I listen to. I went through a particular dark period last year where I only listened to Pink Floyd for almost six month. Specifically their Final Cut album, which is weird and dark and perfect for someone that is depressed.
When I opened Spotify, a small screen popped up, asking whether I wanted to listen on the app or continue listening on Chrome. I don’t use Chrome. Chrome-users, don’t get your knickers knotted. It’s just an internet browser. My point is that it couldn’t have been me since I don’t use Chrome. I continued on to the app and music started playing. Music that wasn’t Queen. A playlist turned on called ‘Kamikaze’ and had some great songs like: Good Morning Darling, The Monster Mash Remix, War on the Dancefloor, and Facing da Master.
Confused at what was going on, I went to my Queen playlist and turned on the first song, We Will Rock You. The iPad, on its own, changed back to the Kamikaze playlist with the song Activation by Teo Moss. I just stared at the screen for a while, wondering what in the hell was going on.
I changed it back to We Will Rock You. After about a minute, the song changed to the second on the playlist, We are the Champions. But, I didn’t want to listen to that song. At that particular moment, I did not feel like a champion. We went back and forth from Kamikaze to Queen several times. Finally, we at least stayed on Queen, but the songs kept flipping to the next one without me doing anything. I thought that perhaps for the rest of my days, someone else would be in control of the music I played in my house. That I might only hear snippets of my favourite songs, while someone, or worse, some kind of algorithm plays Let it Go, Shake It, or I Am the Jazz Monster.
My final concession was to turn on I Want to Break Free. After about a minute, the song kept going, whomever or whatever was on the other side seemed to agree with my choice. I guess that’s the idea with the potential of technology taking over every aspect of our lives - at some point, somewhere, we will meet and agree on something. Perhaps that something is about wanting to break free from each other.