Embodiment

I recently read a short story called Object Permanence by James Yu and like most of his writing — I’m a fan — this speculative piece makes use of technology to explore themes of identity, society and culture.

In this piece, humans who are landmark caretakers also manage Twitter accounts for their respective landmarks and tweet as them.

Imagine Twitter accounts with handles like @GoldenGateBridgeUnofficial and @EiffelTowerOfficial tweeting “You can’t miss me, unlike that boring span @BayBridge” or “Elevate Elevate Elevate”. This actually happens in the story.

The protagonist of this piece, Zain, is a lighthouse caretaker, who initially starts tweeting as his lighthouse for fun.

Later, he is invited to be part of Twitter’s (fictional) green checkmark program, which he initially turns down because he was “skeptical of any software that claimed to be automatic”.

But a mysterious Twitter representative who communicates only by typing in her Notes app, instead of speaking, eventually convinces him to try it out.

The story is beautifully-written and makes commentary on the farcical nature of some parts of the tech industry, while recognising that good can come out of using tech too.

There was a part of the story that reminded me of some of the things I’ve been reading for my research — embodiment and possession (as in, demon / spirit) — which I found odd, but fascinating.

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