Tom Sherman

There is a new psychological phenomenon emerging in this era of hyper- telemedia, information abundance and overload. People of all ages and walks of life are 'blanking'_______that is, they are shutting down or experiencing momentary ruptures of consciousness, or in very severe cases, 'blanking' sometimes lasting for days. This is not attention deficit disorder (ADD) or daydreaming (dd), but a sudden breakdown of consciousness brought about by sensory and cognitive over-extension induced by hyper-connectivity.

People rarely choose to focus on one coherent stream of information these days, but rather gather data from multiple sources simultaneously. Instead of simply listening to the radio or watching TV, we read a newspaper, magazine or book while listening and/or watching while we have something to eat and we have a conversation on the phone while we stroke our dog's tummy with our bare foot. This is how we function in our leisure time--we choose to compose our immediate information environment from multiple sources, mixing our multi-layered reality on the spot.

We've become very good at loading or packing more and more sources of data and information into our shorter and shorter days. In school or the workplace we have learned to concentrate on specific, required tasks in chaotic environments characterized by high levels of noise. In a sense we are always in training, learning to swim in more and more confusing, turbulent currents of data. Each successive generation has become better at coping with louder, busier, more crowded, more discordant surroundings. When we come home to a dark, quiet apartment, we find a need to flip switch after switch, turning on our info-appliances until we achieve our preferred quotient of information. We panic without the pressure, a media presence akin to atmospheric pressure. We sleep as an escape from exhaustion with our televisions and radios and computers left on...

Today people have multimedia workstations to turn up the volume during their days and nights. Many work at home and these workstations are transformed into playstations and vice versa by simply pointing these machines in different directions. Or perhaps more accurately the difference between work and play is something that is determined internally, psychologically, as we adopt these different attitudes inside... We mix our multichannel, multidimensional realities internally, in a private place, wet and cool and blue with a sense of bioelectrical equilibrium.

Hyper-connectivity is the buzz. When we're flying high we tie into anything and everything and we enjoy building bridges between audio and video and data and touching and looking and tasting and being here and there while wanting to be somewhere else alone together in sweet intensity. We're strong and immense and spread out in tandem with the forces of the universe.

But then we blank and its frightening to go down, to crash without any sound or punctuation. To terminate into a well of emptiness. First it's scary and then it's disappointing, an experience racked with futility. [A loved one strokes our hair in the distance.] Our own fingertips are frozen in the curl of our empty hands. Coming out of blanking is the realization that overload has been achieved. You've gone further than ever before. This is better. This is okay. You have pushed yourself into the organic reset mode. You'll have to stay 'down' or quiet or disconnected for a short while, but step by step you'll begin to reload again. Progressing as if dancing through a series of inevitable contacts, tying yourself into this and that until you feel whole again, up and running, functioning, expanding, turning up the volume, finding the rhythms, opening your eyes, wider, stepping out further, reaching across, bridging impossible distances and differences, until again you blank.

Blanking was originally written for the online project SUBVERTICAL ORG, 10/96

Blanking is included on the Kunstradio CD "PERSONAL HUMAN" by Tom Sherman and Bernhard Loibner.