Between William Gibson and William Faulkner (aka all worlds at once)

Sometimes, I resort to that great line from William Gibson,

        the future is already here, it’s just badly distributed. 

But the other day, I was thinking how much I like Faulkner’s remark:

        In the South, not only is the past not dead, it’s not past.

Somehow both these truths apply to us.

Certainly, we are getting better at remembering.  One of these days, services like untravel media (as below) will allow us to extract the history of a city from every nook and cranny of the city.   And we are pretty good at spotting the future when it makes those cameo appearances of which Gibson speaks.  Remember how agonizing things were in the late 1990s when we would just sit around drooling with confusion.  It was horrible.  Now most of us can crunch through an analysis of the latest 2.0 application.  Yes, it’s the future.  No, it just isn’t.  And this means, ironically, that we are getting better at producing more futures faster.

Oh crap.  The first anthropological question is how we have managed to get ourselves stretched between Gibson’s futures (the ones that get here early, I mean) and Faulkner’s pasts (the one that won’t go away, I mean).  The second is how we live in a world when the present isn’t actually very orienting, when what we live in is, potentially, all worlds at once.  Economies just need to be responsive.  Culture need to be something more than that.  They ought to be orienting. 


I am sure I have managed to get both of these lines slightly wrong.  Apologies!


McCracken, Grant.  2008.  Walter Disney Now.  This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics.  here.

1 thought on “Between William Gibson and William Faulkner (aka all worlds at once)

  1. Drew Breunig

    Faulkner’s pasts have a weird twist in this digital world, as our past digital selves simply refuse to disappear. Social networks, Google, and other aggregators make memory and self searchable and on-demand. I can see who you were many yesterdays ago with only the slightest effort.

    The problem has evolved to such a degree that several companies (Reputation Defender, Visible Technologies) are offering digital persona management and personal SEO, to clean up your online profile and protect against snoopy HR and college admission officers.

    The past refuses to leave and problems and benefits emerge. To serve each, new industries are being defined.

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