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Douglas Coupland on bloggers, YouTube and Bubble 2.0

Generation X, Microserfs author spooked

That optimism that the technology as a whole has grown up to care about its effect on the world, subtly contradicts his unease over the barrage of self-awareness expressed by Twittering and videoblogging at SXSW. The paradox is not lost on Coupland.

Coupland: It cuts both ways. With things like YouTube you've got people who in a previous era would never have done anything remotely creative doing nine minute animation segments of dancing marshmallows or something, which is really great because they are using better parts of their brain.

The other edge to the web 2.0 knife is all too clear. As a veteran of SXSW in the early 90s grunge-era days when it was just a music festival, Coupland was shocked by the attack of the bloggers.

Coupland: For about four months back in the 90s I kept what was once called a diary, and I enjoyed doing it but what happened was - and I think this is a very common response - is when you start living your life inside your diary you become quite mercenary, and it's all about 'will this make a good entry?'

Suddenly your life becomes that Warholian thing where every moment of your life should be something you can sell, you're always taking pictures, taping everything, and then I think it's just psychologically strange.

There is a tendency to become like a hermit and sit in your house in a persistent state world or something and your avatar is more real than you. I think it's really fucking spooky. It's so scary.

In the future, all these kids now with MySpace pages who put absolutely everything out there, like number of tampons they used, everything, in 40 years there'll be a political culture where stuff like that, minor details, don't shock anymore.

Now in the States if you hire a maid who doesn't have her papers you have to withdraw from politics. I hope I live to see the day when stuff like that doesn't matter, but at the moment I think after a certain age - I tag it arbitrarily at 22 - everyone's more withdrawn in fear.

Earlier, in a brief book reading to fans at the Austin Conference Center which hosts the show, the author voiced his own fears that everything he said would end up in a mash-up on YouTube, but even an established artist and tech cynic is not invulnerable to the internet's tempting outlet for more of our thoughts and ideas. Coupland's next novel, The Gum Thief, comes out this Autumn. He has registered its two lead characters' domain names and is building mock personal websites as a side project. "The book comes first though," he was quick to insist. ®

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