In the June issue of Turkish literary journal Varlık – titled ‘Loneliness in the age of information’ – contributors attempt an accounting of what we’ve gained and lost in the transition to digital spaces and technologies.

For many, what has been discarded are the subtleties and comforts of communication mediated through the human body. İlknur Doğu Öztürk makes the case for more physical and embodied communication.

Human interaction relies on body language, tone of voice and other elements that are absent from social media, she writes.Stripped of those signals, online communication favours ‘high-pitched messages spoken/written by people who are trapped in echo chambers, who do not want to hear anything that does not support what they say, who always want to be right, who believe that they are superior to others’.

By ignoring our surroundings in favour of the drama and scale of online forums, we are creating new form of ‘voluntary loneliness’, in which people opt for the ‘digital world’s ability to express emotions and convey thoughts to large crowds, while in the real world they avert their eyes to avoid talking to whoever is next to them’.

Digital and virtual forms of art can reduce physical social interaction in galleries or city spaces, thereby isolating individuals, comments Canan Arslan. Digital technologies may ‘contribute to democratisation of cultural capital’ but they also ‘put individual experience to the forefront by transforming the ways spectators interact with art’.

Similarly, Bilgehan Ece Şakrak shows how digital technology has changed cinema from an art form embedded in an urban social experience into a more private and isolated form of consumption. She links the experience of cinema to the urban explorations of the 19th century flaneur. But such possibilities are contracting and ‘the flaneur has quickly grown accustomed to performing the act of viewing in a domestic space where there is no public impact’. The pandemic’s restrictions have only accelerated the process of transforming ‘cinema viewers into uses of digital platforms’.

Zeynep Genel offers a balanced overview of the state of gaming. While digital games can build ‘a global social platform that brings together people from different cultures in a virtual universe’, problems are also becoming clear. Competitive online games can foster rage, bullying and stress and can ‘cut some players off from social life’. Excessive online gaming can also ‘lay the foundations for social isolation, depression and anxiety’. The future is in the hands of game designers, as well as players, pedagogues and policymakers.

Polarised nation

Burcu Zeybek traces Turkey’s social divisions back to the late Ottoman era when westernising and reformist elites first clashed with Islamic traditionalists. Those divisions only deepened in the early 20th century during the secularising reforms under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. ‘This dilemma has become the determining feature of political culture’, writes Zeybek. The resulting polarisation has excluded groups seeking compromise and created a country where ‘centrist or moderate positions are destroyed and extremism becomes the mainstream’.

Varlık also offers responses to About Dry Grasses, the 2023 drama from director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who dedicated his 2008 Cannes Best Director award to ‘my lonely and beautiful country’. The critic Feridun Andaç says isolation runs through all Ceylan’s films. He ‘likes to describe people in their loneliness. For this reason, the heroes of his story are, in a sense, lonely, incompatible, contradictory personalities; they also carry the spirit of the age/time they live in.’


Review by Steve Bryant

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *