This past Friday I took off work to do things around my apartment– clean (didn’t get done), buy groceries (didn’t get done), and interact with the fantastic humans I call my friends (done in abundance). In my downtime, though, I spent a significant amount of time just waltzing around the Internet; I trekked through YouTube, a few blogs, and a number of trending topics on Twitter, just to get the lay of the digital land. I’ve talked about web applications like YouTube and Twitter in abstract before, but I suppose this time I wanted to have proprietary, tangible thoughts and ideas versus the usual “You’ll get used to it.”
I found a series of videos entitled “Is It A Good Idea to Microwave This?” I’m actually watching them for source material as I write this. I stumbled upon these as I looked at videos of disasters (Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse, etc.). Essentially, this enterprising teenager Jory Caron constructed a “safety is our number one priority” blast room in his garage and microwaves things in it; the “ventilation” consists of two ineffective-looking fans and a thorough wallpapering of this blast room with tinfoil. Each video sees a different consumer good meet its radioactive fate: a lighter, a glowstick, an xBox 360, etc.
My initial thought was how this dude hadn’t been crushed under the weight of the existential underpinnings of this series: of course it’s a bad idea to microwave all these things. Microwaving hot dogs can give you indigestion, so microwaving electronics and devices designed to set fires is entirely unnecessary. There is no essence to define here; this is digitally televised pyromania. Caron’s narration of things burning is totally superfluous and the host sports a slightly disheveled appearance; he is a mad scientist of the first degree, even to the point of admitting his methods are not rigidly scientific.
Upon further review, though, Caron may be serving a greater community than just himself and his friends. Warning labels and folklore-bred admonitions are everywhere in modern society. Caron is simply documenting the reasoning behind these labels and tales: he is digitizing the dangerous elements of an appliance-riddled human experience. Since the underlying idea of the Internet is information exchange, he is merely contributing to the general fund of knowledge by posting videos of things being incinerated by Sharp microwaves. In doing so, he makes himself a tongue-in-cheek digital warning label– there is no “don’t try this at home” because the time-honored saying is implied in his ridiculous behavior.
The question that haunts my internal discussion is a tired one I imagine local news anchors everywhere must ask frequently of the growing tide of stupid human tricks : will viewers emulate Caron’s behavior and generate a record number of appliance-related deaths or see the glints of sarcasm in Caron’s performance and realize microwaves aren’t to be trifled with? The question distilled becomes something I want people to think about and respond to:
After viewing/digesting a digital documentation of a real life event, is your curiosity about the event sated, or do you instinctively wish to replicate the event? Can a digital experience be the same as or better than a real experience?
Alternatively, what qualifies as a worthwhile contribution to the stores of information saturating the Internet?