How do time and persona relate to social media?
When we first meet people, we see how they are in the present. As we get to know them, a reverse chronology forms, moving from present to past, though not necessarily in order. To varying extents, we learn about other people in their lives, and events big and small. This happens with anyone we see periodically, whether they are friends, colleagues/peers, neighbors, or workers in businesses and institutions that we frequent. Most personal blogs, Twitter, and Facebook threads work in a similar manner upon first click, we see how they are now, If we scroll through past postings, we learn about people and events in their lives.
In August of 2009 I wanted to write a story using Twitter. I had a plot in mind and began to post bits of information that introduced this character named Nova Avon. I decided to create a persona who would exist in the social media universe; her character and story unfolding in real time just like most regular folks. The plot idea I had was an action-packed mystery involving a purse that Nova bought, and an object she discovered hidden in the purse, resulting in her being abducted and then using Twitter or Facebook to send out SOS messages that would lead to her rescue. But I soon realized that no one was really following her except a woman in Florida who did Twitter posts, “Tweets” about what she was eating, and then began to send personal messages to Nova, calling her “Frisco Gal,” and telling her how boring life was. (Her messages have disappeared from the Twitter site.) I became more interested in just creating a persona with a story arc like most people’s, flatter and without hair-raising episodes. I have always been more focused on character than plot, how a person is, rather than what events occur; the story of a person’s life is only part of who they are. How a person responds to the events in their life depends on how that person is at their core. And that core being can change over the course of a life, too. There is a continual ebb and flow between interior essence and exterior environment.
Nova Avon moved to San Francisco to take a great new job as a midlevel marketing manager. Just as she had settled into her Twin Peaks apartment and was beginning to establish herself at work, the recession hit, and she lost her job. She began to spend time at the public library, where she found a book of cooking haikus. She noticed that the author had a cooking school nearby, and enrolled in a class. It was not the kind of cooking class she had expected. Taught by Bernie Shakti, the class was about the relation between the colors of foods and the chakras. The class was at the Rising Sun Institute of Spiritual Cooking. Located in Marin County, it was directed by Suzie Baker. While Nova was not really connecting with the class, she did manage to acquire Suzie Baker as a marketing client. Through Ms. Baker, Nova met several other characters, including a video artist named Claire Bain. When Suzie Baker helped Nova realize that she had a drinking problem, Nova accepted a series of treatments in partial exchange for marketing work. Nova contracted Claire Bain to make a video about this experience, entitled “Egg Nova On.”
Burn and Technology...background thoughts for what happens in the scene with Nova:
Burn found himself thinking of a bird flying on a diagonal, from lower right to upper left, and how the presence of that bird added an important dimension or texture to the scene behind it. He wondered why he would think of it at this very moment, when the situation he was in was not at all related to birds, landscapes or nature. It had happened to him before, when he was entangled in technology-related pressures. He would never understand that it was his psyche's way of countering the ideological disorientation that the modern digital society caused him. It really was so far out of his realm of indoctrination that it was truly impossible for him to adjust. It wasn't that he had a mental block toward the idea of it all, like so many people of his generation who, once they made a little effort, could easily master the basics of e-mail, cellphones, and text messaging. His problem was in the fundamental physical interface between people and machines that required the digital intermediary idea. He was a person who depended on the messages and textures of person-to-person communication: the eyes, face, body postures, and all of the accompanying motions. He tolerated telephones because he could feel the grain of the other person's voice; he appreciated handwritten letters because he liked that the words were traces of the sender's hand movement. He had been OK with messages created on typewriters because he thought of fingers tapping on keys and handling the sheet of paper, rolling it out of the machine...but he never received them anymore. Faxes were OK-to-neutral for him; he liked when parts were written by hand, even if only on the cover sheets, and at least they were handled by a person as they were scanned into or came out of the machines. He put up with answering machines, voice mail, and his simple cell phone only because he had to in order to do his job. Now there was more and more pressure to use e-mail, and he hated it. He had to get a computer and use the e-mail account that his company assigned to him, and he was required to check it daily. Each time he sat in front of the screen, he felt dizzily disturbed. He felt that the type in e-mail messages was too similar to all of the other graphics on the pages, and the first time he opened his e-mail he could not even understand where the body of the e-mail message was. His daughter Joanne had to help him several times before he got the hang of it. At age 43, she had not grown up with this technology the way kids were doing nowadays. She was good natured with him about it even if she did giggle to herself about some of the goof ups he did. This Nova Avon reminded him of his daughter.