Project Timeline 2005–2010

Skip to content

One morning in April 2018, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that overnight he had turned into a Quaker. Not the religious kind, of course, the ones who still wore white shirts and rode around on horse-drawn buggies in Connecticut (or was it Pennsylvania? He couldn’t recall), but rather the mediaslow variety.

The realisation hit him as he lay in bed, quite still, and listened to the rain drumming on the metal window ledge. He supposed that it was bound to happen, sooner or later. It had started with his promotion to the Executive Hub at The Bank, just last year, and continued (as he now clearly saw) with the gradual divestment of all the technological gadgets he’d gathered over twenty-odd years of consumption: the plaser screens, numerous tablet PCs, the SHD cameras, the Apple iAm media centre (or ‘God’, as his wife snorted derisively when he bought it home for the first time)… He was getting exhausted just thinking about it all. All gone. All of it eBayed over the past few months.

Well”, he thought, “good riddance. If they want to call me a Quaker, let them. They can keep their media junkfood”. He’d heard the term ‘Quaker’ with increasing frequency of late. It was all over his favourite newsfeeds. Apparently the movement had begun in America, in the Valley, as some of the wealthy entrepreneurs decided to ‘stop smoking unfiltered media’ and ‘dropped out’, much like their hippie grandparents in the ‘70’s. He didn’t take too much notice, at first. It was a radical move, and Gregor did not consider himself at the cutting edge of anything. In fact, he had been cut once too often. His fateful purchase of an expensive HD DVD player, some ten years ago, had left its scar. He wasn’t going to get duped again.

Still, many of the other senior executives at The Bank were also mediaslow (‘Quaker’ was a slang term – he would sooner yawn during one of the CEO’s interminable speeches than utter it in their presence). They had no personal communicators, no phones, no organisers or handhelds – rightfully leaving such toys to ‘middle management’. Not for them the incessant stream of data, interrupting thought. The new mandarins of the information age had people to filter the information for them. Most of The Bank’s executives employed at least one personal media valet, whose job it was to pass all information, personal or not, through a fine filter before it reached the ears of their employer. All voice, video and data was analysed and digested, then packaged for optimised, efficient consumption.

Of course, they all had their expensive media walls at home, but even there the media valet played a part in protecting the eyes and ears of their employer. The glare and noise of billions of content producers and billions of consumers was too much to take. At the lowest level, the valet relayed live calls from family and friends – and made sure that there were no technical glitches (not an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately, what with the hundreds of global carriers). Next, they selected and edited entertainment, carefully trawling through the sea of content for their employer’s taste and preferences.

Finally – and, Gregor knew, this is where a good media valet was worth his weight in gold – they acted as co-directors and producers for their employer’s personal media projects. Just last week, Gregor had been invited to his Executive Director’s house, where the media wall was ablaze with his full-length re-interpretation of ‘Apocalypse Now’ – starring his adorable children as the Air Cavalry, with Antoine, the eldest, doing a fantastic job as Willard’s moody sidekick. Gregor was astounded how far the little one had come – it seemed like just last year he’d been working with the virtual acting coaches from Seoul, and here he was nominated for a JuniorOscar (Best Adapted Acting – Live Historical Action category). How thrilling that he’d been voted in by over ten million other actors!

Gregor came away from the experience amazed and inspired. He remembered setting up his media wall the very next week. It had taken some effort – his wife was resolutely convinced that the photos of her mother would look grainy and faded – but when the installers left and she asked ‘Where is it?’, he knew he had her. The media wall, a state-of-the-art Panasonic laser unit with membrane speakers, faithfully replicated one of his apartment’s walls – down to the last wrinkle on his mother-in-law’s lip in the old framed photograph (not necessarily a good thing, he felt, but it did, at least, demonstrate the resolution of the unit, not to mention the sizeable chunk of his savings that this kind of processing power had consumed). The ‘standard’ apartment wall projection faded as one wished, to project and manipulate virtually any image, static or moving, from the pinhead laser unit overhead. All video calls were sent to the wall; with full background fill-in and Panasonic’s You’reSoThere ™ technology, you felt as if you were talking to someone actually sitting in your lounge room.

In fact, Gregor didn’t have to leave home for the office. With the media wall, he could, in theory, work from home: his colleagues would be simply dialled in, and he’d sit right opposite them. The fact that he still commuted to work on most days was a choice – and another opportunity to demonstrate his new executive status. All the senior Bank executives were co-located. The architects, with their tasteful variable mediafibre suits and wire glasses, recommended as much. They spoke about the presence pyramid: how it is built up around technology, how it tapers to a point where emotional nuance becomes critical, physical language gradients, microexpressions… Gregor listened and smiled inwardly – he was now one of ‘them’, no longer tied to screens and media walls for work, unless through the comfort and security of a media valet… It meant that The Bank’s Executive Hub was located ten minutes from the firm’s (subsidised) executive residential complex, in Palm Beach. Gregor’s daily commute was a walk across the beach.

It was The Bank’s middle-ranking staff who ‘telecommuted’ from the suburbs of Sydney and Brisbane, in turn managing their projects through The Bank’s distributed analytical workforce in Mumbai, Sao Paolo and Karachi. It was the lower classes who were the media junkies, undiscerning producers and consumers, feeding a billion appetites with endless clumsy variations and re-imaginings of the past hundred years of content. Not for them the professional, personal media valet – if they were more sensitive and wealthier than most, then perhaps an AI system would take his place. If not, then they threw themselves on the mercy of the global sea of content and tried to chart a course as best they could – or simply gave up, and let the currents take them, like shipwrecked sailors in the past. Gregor had heard about them. It was said that they were addicted to the media stream and could not pull away, their minds like static, slowly dissipating into the global media web until it and they became one.

Lying in bed, Gregor shuddered at the thought, and pulled the sheets around his chest. Here, at least, he was safe and warm. Outside, the rain kept falling.