Valibation is a new flesh movie for us all – the new smartphone phreaks, the cajoling handheld deviants, the touchscreen frotteurs.
I always wondered why the mobile phone didn’t get more attention from the horror posse. Maybe I missed out, but to me smartphones have always had the potential of accumulating phobias, harmful bacteria, scares and the unheimlich on a global scale. One enters these perpetual pseudo-cycles of checking and syncing, one is “glued” to the screen, more so than with the usual pc, laptop or TV screen.
There are various horror movie productions (some of them Japanese if I can recall), where being called or talking to the phone is the end of it. Picking up the phone has an important role to play in such a Thai cult as 13 Beloved, where basically life and especially death happens just around anonymous phone calls or phone commands multitasking you to death. What 13 Beloved has in comparison with Valibation is the horror of getting promotional sms. It isn’t so much about a liberating technology or hardware but about the user’s availability as part of the precariat. Apart from the social networking manias, the phone is rigged by corporate interests(showbiz gaming&entertainment campaigns), not only “seduction bombs”(hook up cliche sms used by the Valibation hero) but promotional sms, prizewinning announcements, special offers and constant recruitment. And at one point or another we all know how bullying and ugly this can get. Once they are on your tail, the effort to lose them may be too much to bother. In response you have to develop a sort of autistic thinking, cutting yourself off, becoming indifferent and disconnected.
Valibation is more about an app invasive world and the century of the telephobic self. I always found interesting and illuminating how such social media monsters as Twitter are offering advice and help in case of severe dependence. How to develop behavioural patterns that can unhook, combat the compulsive machinic manias that keep us online is becoming a self-help motto. From the technophiliac 90s, when cyberdellic mags such as Mondo2000 where encouraging the total merger of man-machine, nowadays a growing theoretical and practical field of selfhealing and monitoring addictive drives and everpresent cognitive exploitation is taking shape. No wonder the flip-side of cybersexuality and egomassage is being exploited by Valibation. OK ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing wrong with masturbation(that’s where the “bation” in the title stands for). From the sin of Onan to dozens of anti-masturbation educational tracts and various school system punishments for boys and girls, it was a favourite sin in every religious bigots catalogue of perversions. It has been used to condemn uselessness, idleness, sloth, intelectual infertility and purposeless excitability. Supposedly, in our purpose-, end-goal oriented society, masturbation is the enemy of productivity and fulfilling life by extension. Still what this doesn’t allow is the fact that what we are missing is how we slide from one pseudo-cycle to the next.. From work/vacation to Twitter/Facebook, from childhood/maturity, from one self-reproductive circularity to the next. It’s just that in the touchscreen machine age some habit-creating circuits block and out-compete others or are more damaging and selfish on the short and long term because they don’t allow any immediate release or pause button.
The pun in Valibation is also about the new Evolutionary Psychology paradigm (read closet Sociobiology) that informs and binds customer choice, marketing and sexuality. The crudest and most simplistic darwinistic explanations have resurfaced as common sense psychology. From high heels sales to sex chat, everything is validated by evolutionary just-so stories. Likes, favorites, never ending sharing – enact changes in a very innocuous but very graspable way not only for hands but subjectivity and perceptions of the self. Even such trashy remakes as Total Recall have already implanted handheld devices under the skin of their protagonists fighting for immediate surgical removal. The actual merit of Valibation is to have embodied the mobile phone issue. The hand, that perpetual phantom limb is being transformed and shaped by the new tools in unpredictable ways. The lamarckist shadow is supervising the reshaping of our prehensile organs as supreme tools getting the upper hand. You could argue that every form of work includes some manual work, some repetitive rhythms and overuse leading to Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs). What doesn’t even classify as work, all the incessant swyping and billions of repetitive surface touches are sculpting our anatomy.
If catastrophism holds sway over paleontology and our apocalyptic imagination, at least we should give gradualism a chance when it comes to repetitive touch. Just imagine the power of swype erosion upon canyons of flesh and bone.
Well, now is high time to encounter something even more insidious than cumulative musculoskeletal strain. Meet the potent alchemy of “protective” materials used as casings for tablets, phablets, smartphones and ebook readers! As a good friend mentioned drily to me – the phone might be protected from shock as long as the silicone case is being softened by special chemicals.
Yes, complex silicone softeners(comprising also textile softeners); the outcome of a chemical industry investing in sensual skin-like surfaces and touch-friendly materials may be an even better horror candidate for killing us softly and invisibly.