quarterlife

I have added yet another weapon to my arsenal of procrastination.

Geez, what’s with the military metaphor?

Okay– I have found yet another tool with which to foster my creative procrastination pursuits. And yes, there’s scientific evidence that procrastination makes you creative. But then again, we all know that ‘science’ is just another culturally-constructed system in which we to attempt to organize and explain the world. So what does ‘scientific evidence’ really mean?

To the point: I am now addicted to ‘quarterlife‘, the webseries originally aired independently and now being shown on NBC for five weeks. Damn internet TV.

The premise: eight 20-something friends living in an apartment building in Chicago, each pursuing some creative (or creative-like) endeavor while trying to figure out their lives. There’s an angsty writer, an insecure actress/singer, two filmmakers at odds with each other (one wealthy and ‘attractive’, the other artsy and ‘sensitive’), a ‘performance artist’ that keeps pissing people off, a geeky/nerdy/freaky sort of guy who lives in the basement and spends all his time on the computer, and an ‘activist’ always fighting for The Cause. And one girl who’s totally lost. Oh, and they all video blog on the social-networking site http://quarterlife.com. Thus, the name of the show, and the thread that ties it all together.

Each ‘webisode’ is between 8 and 13 minutes long, and starts out with Dylan (the main female character, the writer) video blogging about some theme that the episode grapples with. For example: “Anxiety”, “Compromise”, “Finding a Voice.” Webisodes are linked together according to theme, and the thematic links carry a plotline over the course of 5 or so webisodes (so you end up with roughly an hour of programming per theme).

Sounds cliché, yes. And parts of it are. But it is largely engaging and entertaining. And… frighteningly… I can totally identify with the main character. Mostly. Sometimes. On some of the things she says/does. Sort of.

What I didn’t realize when I started watching the webisodes (last night, instead of doing my archaeology midterm, which I should also be writing right now) was that the social-networking site ‘quarterlife’ is real. It’s a MySpace/ Facebook-esq site dedicated to “Artists, Thinkers, and Do-ers”.

And, even more strange, the characters from the show ‘blog’ in ‘real life’ as well. They blog in character, not as the actor playing the character. So, real people (that’d be us folks that are *not* on the web- show) can upload video, photos, and writing samples, and comment on other real people’s uploads. Plus, they can comment on blogs/videos/photos uploaded by the characters in the show.

Does this strike anyone else as a little odd??

Perhaps not.  It could be looked at as simply another way for audiences to interact with art. There’s such a thing as interactive theater, and it’s been around for a while.  The thing here, though, is that the line between ‘art’ and ‘reality’ is unclear, and there is the potential for longer-term emotional investment.  You can become virtual friends with your favorite character.

This of course, raises questions about what really is ‘reality.’ Uh oh.

I mean, quarterlife isn’t nearly as odd as the 3-D virtual world Secondlife, where you could feasibly avoid all face-to-face social interaction, as well as your problems, worries, issues, etc by creating a ‘new’ virtual life for yourself, complete with a new body, new profession, new friends, and MAGIC! Yes, magic. You can be a sorcerer. Through programming. Just look at the name of it! Second. Life. Like this life isn’t good enough?

I think there’s something deeper going on there. Perhaps we need to address the systemic reasons for peoples’ unhappiness, rather than escaping into our little machines?

I sense great possibilities for an ethnographic analysis of virtual social interactions. Anyone?

Maybe I need to get out more.

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