In a July 1996 piece in The New York Times Magazine, William Gibson talks about the “test pattern” of early television: a target-like device that was broadcast for calibration purposes but which people actually gathered around to watch. This was the era when watching television was considered a leisure activity; the modes of production were shut down for the day and the average american could simply tune in and turn off.

But this relationship changed as we became “postindustrial creatures of an information economy,” to quote Gibson. We became aware that accessing and utilizing media was instead a type of work we enlisted in.

Flash forward to now and there is no time for leisure: to be successful is to be chronically busy, to maximize the technologies that exploit our ability to hyper-connect.

And then SARS-Cov2. During this unprecedented moment of modern global pandemic, economies have halted and the tools we normally employ to stay busy, connected and productive now lack their usual arenas.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, we have nothing but time.

In a sense we are back to a “test pattern” period of the internet. How we wish to see our technology as a tool to connect with one another is being reassessed and re-imagined.

Gibson’s description of the world wide web back in 1996 feels spot on:

“Today, in its clumsy, larval, curiously innocent way, it offers us the opportunity to waste time, to wander aimlessly, to daydream about the countless other lives, the other people, on the far sides of however many monitors in that post-geographical meta-country we increasingly call home.”


// These portraits are made over FaceTime. Sheltered in our respective homes, the subject and myself make the image separately, together. //