Thursday, March 12, 2009

How quickly we forget.

In our rush to appraise the merits of the alleged "stick figure aliens," it's all-too-easy to overlook oddities from the past -- in this case, a cartoon-like humanoid supposedly captured in a cellphone photo in 2006:





The purpose of this post isn't to suggest the clumsy-looking beings in question are real or unreal, but to underscore the inherently amnesiac nature of online Forteana, in which "mysteries" are created and forgotten with alarming rapidity.

(Greg Bishop reminisces about the "gumboid" above in a new post at UFOMystic, which in turn references a post here at Posthuman Blues.)

13 comments:

Intense said...

Boy, this is getting recursive, ain't it? 8^}

I would swear on a stack of agnostic bibles (phone books?) that I saw, sometime in the last few months, a brief article exposing the "kokopelli"-like gumboid noted in your post as not only an obvious hoax, but documented as such by showing another photo of an identical posable rubber toy alien figure in packaging with a illustrated cardboard header in clear plastic or cellophane wrap. Which, of course, I cannot find now.

But you're correct, to get back on topic, that the ephemera of and "inherently amnesiac nature of online Forteana, in which 'mysteries' are created and forgotten with alarming rapidity" is quite an interesting internet-based cultural phenomena itself.

The thing that I wonder about is the long-term archetypal and mythic impact on the collective consciousness, individual subconscious, and cultural memory such a rapid cycling of this kind of often hoaxed Fortean "mystery meat" has on people (both pictorial and textual) from a sociological and anthropological perspective and context.

How does it affect how we may think about, understand, or analyze such things? Does it occur more often or have more effect in times of social unrest and economic stress, possibly serving as a psychological diversion or outlet? Does it have both beneficial and/or deleterious effects, and if so, how and why?

The memetic nature of such imagery, even if consciously forgotten, may have some significance and impact on varying ideologies and cultural presumptions based on it's repetition, evolving imagery, and provocative qualities. Does it contribute to stereotyping, a kind of false quanta of accreting anomalistic history like some surrealist rubber-band ball of memory? Or something like that.

Jest askin'.

The Missed Call Of Cthulhu said...

Warning, contains crappy, highly speculative, inexpert psychology...
Once upon a time I wanted to write a fantasy novel. I thought it'd be cool to research all the monsters that people believe in and see if they might inform the monsters of my world. I came across a blog called cryptomundo, and I assure you there are some people out there that 1) never forget a single one of these stories, and 2) believe freaking all of them. Years later I stumbled across an episode of This American Life where someone explained the appeal of Coast to Coast. It tied back into that blog, as the show tries to encorporate everything- aliens, bigfoot, the loch ness monster... and as a result they need to bend and mesh and forget. Personally I think most people who believe this stuff are unhappy people and the unknown fills a void in their life (just as religion does for others). If a piece is disproven it must be quickly jetisoned so the whole thing doesn't come crashing down. Meanwhile they need more and more and more- to avoid a reasoned examination of the facts and to keep their minds occupied.

Tristan Eldritch said...

I'm not sure that people who believe this kind of stuff are any happier or sadder than people who believe in natural selection and the value of a hard days work. And a need for the mysterious and the unknown seems to be a uniquely human tendency, rather than one which pertains simply to the neurotic.

The Missed Call Of Cthulhu said...

TE, I agree with you, to a degree, that the need for mystery isn't simply for neurotics, I also agree that though it's my opinion that there's likely a connection between being overly credulous and depression there haven't (to my knowledge) been any significant studies on the topic. I don't think that an appreciation for the value of a hard day's work and holding a nutty world view are mutually exclusive. But I would wager that the ability to accept an idea on the scantest, crappiest of evidence is a form of faith and that it is likely to stem from the same areas of the brain as all other faith based reasoning. I also think that faith is largely a coping mechanism (which is an aspect of faith that most are quick to trumpet). And I further think that after poking around this blog for a little while, it’s not for me. Call me a snob but I think giving any non-ironic attention to Grey’s and crummy alien videos is well… silly. We’re going to find real alien life forms, probably in the next year or two, in the form of microbes on Mars. The odds are great that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. The odds that it’s in any given a-hole’s yard are considerably lower.

purrlgurrl said...

There seems to be an ongoing degredation of the ability to engage in critical thinking in modern society regardless of education level.

It's no longer surprising to me that the most obviously hoaxed or blatently and intentially misidentified images and fabricated stories posted online are credulously recirculated by multiple blogs as being true representations of what they're purported to be - aliens, ufos, cryptobiology, ghosts, angels and demons, shadow people, bases on the moon, etc. These things might truly exist, but the "evidence" circulated online is almost always open to other, valid interpretations.

There seems to be something about the Web that lulls people into believing anything posted there must be the truth (especially if it suits their preconceived notions about the universe). Along with commentor number one, I wonder about the cultural and sociological (and even political) implications of this phenomenon.

I'm not saying that the Internet and open access are bad things or that any type of censorship should be imposed. But rather, it seems with the blossoming of the Web we have developed a pressing need to establish critical thinking curricula in our education system, at all levels. A little sketicism when confronting outlandish claims is a healthy thing.

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