Wise Words From BJörk on the Role of Technology in the World Today
An interview gives Björk the chance to address the use of technology, the place of social networks in our lives and the role of women in technology.
In recent decades, technology has become the decisive pulse in humanity’s evolution. As is often the case with tools that revolutionize behavior and our perception of reality, this one has a double edge. Although for years we’ve celebrated hyper-connectivity and the potential of our “digital grasslands,” we’re now facing the dark sides of those same forces. It’s important, if not urgent, to reflect on them.
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Björk spoke about the roles of technology in our lives, the value we should place in it, and the quality of the information we receive through social networks. An experimental artist always interested in technological advances – remember her most recent multidisciplinary project, Biophilia? Or the 360 degree, virtual-reality video for “Stonemilker”? – her interpretations take on a special significance.
When Bjork is questioned about the generalized anxiety that exists because of technology and its misuse today, she responds with a deep, sensible simplicity:
I try to look at it as just as a tool. We’ve always had tools. We discovered how to work with fire, we made the first knife. The nuclear bomb comes, and everybody’s like, “Oh, well, we could actually kill everybody.” We had to go through the morality of it. And so we have to react to that [with technology]. I definitely do get anxious about it, but because I’m anxious about it, I try to come up with solutions. It’s here: I’m not going to just put bananas in my ears and wait for it to go away. I’m probably most anxious about it when it comes to the planet and the environment.
Björk continues by discussing the skills we’ve lost through the presence of technology in our daily lives and the time we waste on social media:
We just have to define technology. There’s no one answer. Sometimes you have to burn yourself. Maybe there are a lot of kids now who don’t know how to walk in a forest and do basic outdoorsy things. You can be on Facebook for a long time, and then you get a feeling in your body like you’ve had three hamburgers. You know it’s trash. I always advise my friends: just go for a walk for an hour and come back and see how you feel then. I think we’re meant to be outdoors. I was brought up in Iceland, and even if it was snowing or raining, I would be outdoors all day. Entertain yourself. Do shit. I think we need to put humanity into technology—the soul. It’s about using technology to get closer to people, to be more creative.
Finally, Björk, who’s referred to herself as a “soft feminist,” to the question of where she would like the virtual to go:
Right now, it’s most prevalent in the gaming industry. I like that it doesn’t seem to be going in an elitist way. I think it’s going to end up being as available as an iPhone. It’s immersive, and anything that’s creative is a positive thing. With music, from my point of view, VR is a continuation of the music video. Anybody who likes sound like me is going to be into 360-degree sound and vision. And what’s exciting about VR is that right now it doesn’t have the hierarchy of patriarchy. There are so many girls in it. I shot seven or eight VR videos now, worked with seven or eight different teams, and there’s a lot of girls out there. I’m hoping that that will kind of come to mirror the time that we’re in, where boys and girls are more equal.
It’s no surprise that an artist as profound as Björk brings such lucidity to technology and the roles it takes on in our lives. The information-age is full of traps and mirages. It’s urgent that we find a way to relate to technology (and technological products), of content and principle, which reflects our soul, and helps us to relate to others, without losing sight of the fact that technology is what we make of it: the beauty and the metaphor are ours.
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