How to Stop the Big, Bad Wi-Fi
From the idea that digital technology will create an unmonitored network of spies to the claim that it is one step away from implanted brain chips, the culture of tech-free living is a strange place to be. Whilst the majority of Western society has accepted smartphones, tablet computers and various other weird and wonderful devices as part of everyday life, there are still some who refuse to participate in these developments. They might simply refrain from using gadgets and actually speak to people in person, or, in more extreme cases, they may design and build their own technologies to combat advanced developments such as Wi-Fi and face recognition software. Predictably, a lot of this involves tin foil and head shields and makes for some really stunning fashion mishaps.
A novel aspect of this movement is that it comes with its own terminology, coined by its supporters, which makes it a lot more fun to communicate essential views and ideas. These terms start with relatively simple phenomena such as ‘plugthug’ – a person who is willing to kill for access to recharging facilities – and ‘memail’, which is an email sent to oneself as a reminder to do something. The teasing tone of these phrases is taken to another level through ‘sheeple’ though, defined as those who purchase the latest gadget because they are convinced that everyone else will buy one and can’t bear the thought of being left out, and ‘meanderthal’, which describes a person who attempts to drive or walk whilst using their mobile phone. They have also ingeniously coined ‘game-shame’ as the feeling of embarrassment at realising that a gaming session that was meant to last half an hour has actually lasted over five hours and caused you to miss a party/wedding/funeral. This is only the tip of a vast linguistic iceberg generated by those who dislike, fear, or are generally bemused by tech, and has been well-documented by the BBC.
In a more than slightly ironic turn of events, proponents of anti-tech culture have turned to technology in order to defend themselves against the apparent dangers to their health, minds and freedom. The most advanced of these is the anti-glass glasses device, developed by Professor Echizen of Japan’s National Institute of Informatics and designed to prevent facial recognition. As technologies such as cameras, phones, tablets and, of course, Google glasses make use of face detection by locating dark areas where the nose and eyes are, Echizen’s invention uses eleven LED lights around this area to cancel out the effect. Whilst this might not seem particularly useful to the average citizen, it could be pretty handy for any budding spy or superhero who doesn’t want to be spotted by surveillance or tracking devices. It could even be employed by the military if it looked less like a rejected costume design from Tron, so it might not be quite as kooky an idea as this video suggests:
A more cliché reaction tech culture comes from Emil de Toffol of New York, who has been selling radiation preventing garments through his site lessEMF.com since 1996. Products range from bedding and boxer shorts to aprons and eye shields. So at least you can be sure you won’t get radiation sickness while you rob that bank. They repel radiation waves with silver, copper, stainless steel and carbon fibres, which are woven into the material and, in addition to their protective effects, also cause the products to become incredibly expensive. A pair of boxer shorts – intended to be worn over other underwear – will set you back $90, whilst king-size bed canopies are priced at $1099 and hoodies at $159.95. Still, at least it’s cheaper than Juicy Couture. Emil thinks that his head-gear is the most popular because people want to protect their heads, especially when they’re sleeping. Of course, when you’re anticipating a stealth attack from your arch-rival it’s always wise to be prepared.
Strange garments and contraptions aren’t the only devices being used to combat the effects of digital technology though, as sometimes it’s as simple as redecorating your bedroom. In 2009, researchers at the University of Tokyo succeeded in developing the first paint to absorb frequencies of 100 gigahertz; the frequency of Wi-Fi. When applied to a room, or any other container, it blocks the path of both incoming and outgoing data and effectively disables Wi-Fi activity in that area. Although undoubtedly expensive, this could lead to remarkable everyday applications such as preventing children accessing Wi-Fi in their bedrooms or ensuring that your phone isn’t incurring roaming charges without having to change its settings every time you want to tweet. Even though it has been adopted by anti-tech supporters for its wave-stopping abilities, it may also prove highly effective in the growth and development of the digital world. Wi-Fi paint basically looks like normal paint, which isn’t particularly exciting to look at. This is glow-in-the-dark paint, it’s much prettier:
Over the last three decades, a plethora of celebrities have announced their anti-tech status, usually on the grounds of the 1984-like connotations of the Internet, which Kiera Knightley once described as ‘dehumanising’. Similarly, in 2011 Winona Ryder told talk show host Jimmy Fallon that she had never read a blog and expressed her worry that she might accidentally join Al Qaeda if she used Google. As it’s highly unlikely that she’s reading this, it could be an opportune moment to make a link between her unconventional shopping history and the comparative high security of buying online.
Social media has also been met with confusion and disgust by some celebs, their views being summed up most succinctly by George Clooney, who stated at a press conference in 2009 that he would rather ‘have a rectal examination on live TV by a fellow with cold hands than have a Facebook page’. Despite this unique and enlightening remark, he appears to have 202 Twitter accounts. Unless @Gcloonz isn’t really him. Brangelina also confessed their unfamiliarity with the Internet to USA Today , claiming that they first attempted to use Amazon.com in 2011, but gave up after an hour as they couldn’t figure it out. The most confident, and most foolish, anti-tech rant came from Prince in 2010, when he told the Daily Mirror that the Internet was completely over and was like MTV because ‘at one time, MTV was hip, and suddenly it became outdated’. Prince has engaged in a series of legal battles with Internet giants such as YouTube since the early 2000s, and still refuses to work with iTunes or eMusic. His reason for denouncing computers and gadgets? ‘They fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.’
Posted by Rosie Tallant on 4th July, 2013