The Advent of the Micro-Singularity
In June 2015, when over a billion people worldwide suddenly conversed over the inception of the image of one woman, Caitlyn Jenner, it became clear that a new type of news event entirely was taking hold. It occurred once again in July 2015, when social media invented the news event that ‘Cecil the Lion’ had been hunted by a Minnesota dentist- this event immediately became a voguish concern around the internet-connected world. While this affinity for artifactuality, the propensity to create and distill a sense of factuality among imagined identities, is not new, the enormity of the scale of this commemorative consciousness (collective memory) is very much the product of social media intervention. In other words, surgically grafting femaleness unto the male body is, from a Lacanian perspective a testament to the artifactuality of gender, and as such purports the same sort of ‘manipulation at will’ by which we define and reify the image-based identities of the subjects of our media (Dean 78-79). Whether the mass culture voice, collectively murmuring through social media by way of hashtag-activism are reifying celebrities, or attributing imaginary characteristics of identity unto a speechless animal, the medium itself is enabling these voices to function in a new way: journalist Amber Case calls this, “the micro-singularity.”
Case defines the micro-singularity as the juncture at which all the world’s social internet channels momentarily focus their awareness around a single phenomenon, while it’s still happening- “Emile Durkheim’s conscience collective digitally transformed into a literal entity” (Case 1.) Case demands that we must understand how these orchestrated news events arise, who appears them, how they evolve around manufactured call-signs (e.g. #JeSuisCharlie, in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre,) and how our media can help moderate discussion by putting simple architecture in place to fact-check accusations (e.g. wrongful accusations of guilt hurled at misidentified suspects immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing.)
As Goodwell Nzou phrased it in The New York Times, “The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus… We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people” (Nzou 3). Case implores both the connected sphere and its moderators alike (e.g. Twitter, Inc.,) to instate emergency protocols for these situations like staying in touch with local law-enforcement to protect those who are wrongfully ‘convicted’ by social media long before proper identification or due process, and building filters in order to prevent the posting of addresses and telephone numbers to ‘Trending’ Twitter micro-singularities. The power for worldwide rapid communication in this way is very positive for the evolution of an educated public sphere, so long as the facts the process is inventing in extremis are treated as exactly that: invented facts. In the age of the micro-singularity, it’s most important to retain what I would call a sense of macro-plurality, an understanding that all news events are merely representations that stand outside the real, most plural, truth. In the age of the micro-singularity it is, as J.F. Brenzenberg (1777–1846) says, “what is true has no windows; nowhere does the true look out to the universe” (Brenzenberg 287).
Graphic: “Watch What Cecil the Lion Did to Twitter” [Source: Dan Tynan, Yahoo! Tech; July 30 2015]
Sources (in order of appearance,)
Dean, Tim. Beyond Sexuality. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois. 2000. Print.
Fast Co.Exist: Welcome to the Age of the Micro-Singularity
NYT: In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions
Brenzenberg, Johann Friedrich. Briefe geschreiben auf einer Reise nach Paris (Dortmund, 1805), vol. 1, p. 260. Print.
[Graphic] Yahoo! Tech: Watch What Cecil the Lion Did to Twitter