Poppy’s World

Poppy and Poppy’s World are, basically, a riff on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, updated for cyberspace and virtual reality. It’s surprising, then, that so many people find Poppy perplexing, since everybody probably knows the story of Alice. Poppy is Alice, and the characters that inhabit Poppy’s World of cyberspace, which appear in her YouTube videos — a talking skeleton, a talking plant, a talking mannequin, faceless men, computer boy — these are counterparts to the characters that appear in Alice’s Wonderland.

The confusion and perplexity (and sometimes indignation and hostility) about Poppy and Poppy’s World that you find in a lot of commentaries on Poppy teaches us something quite profound about changes in the way we approach story. Poppy actually reveals something also about changes in consciousness and “chaotic transition”, which is what got me interesting in the Poppy meme in the first place.

There is a close connection between literacy and perspectivity, and between the birth of the novel (Cervantes’ Don Quixote is often cited as the first novel) and perspective painting. When you read a story like Alice in Wonderland, you maintain a certain perspective distance from the narrative. You find it delightful, perhaps, and in a way you certainly would not if you actually happened to awake one morning and found yourself in Wonderland. You almost certainly would not find it delightful, but very uncomfortable. You would probably conclude that you had gone insane, since nothing would really make sense to you.

When you read of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, you are a remote observer. Alice’s Wonderland corresponds to that “interior space” of a perspective painting that is, in effect, the first virtual reality — the illusion of depth. But imagine if you were suddenly transported into that interior space of the perspective painting rather than maintaining a safe objective “point-of-view”. It would be quite akin to Alice suddenly falling through the looking glass. That interior space either of the perspective painting or of the novel, is neither real nor unreal. It is the irreal.

The Alice of Carroll’s story is not, as we say, “interactive”. You are, as it were, a kind of disembodied eye following Alice in her adventures in Wonderland. Alice doesn’t know you’re there. Poppy, by contrast, knows you’re there, and she draws you into the narrative and into Poppy’s World as participant, even as interlocutor. If Alice were to suddenly turn and speak to you in the novel, the way Poppy does in her videos, you would probably find this suddenly very disorienting, maybe even threatening.

Not too many people, I suspect, find Alice “creepy”. Poppy, however, creeps people out, because what is true of literacy and the novel — perspective distance — is not true of cyberspace, where perspective distance all but dissolves. That dissolution of perspective distance is even mentioned in the lyrics to Poppy’s song “Interweb”. And, as mentioned in a comment to the last post on Poppy and Meme Magic, this seems to be even choreographed in her performance of the song, where Poppy is drawing you into her web but then follows the gesture of spinning with a motion that seems to push away (watch it again if you missed it the first time. It’s a beautiful song, and very artfully performed)

This eclipse of perspective distance is one of the things that unnerved Daniel Bell in his analysis of The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. This “eclipse of distance” — that is, the psychological distance of perspectival-literary man (or “Gutenberg Man” in Marshall McLuhan’s terms) is what Bell even finds to be the chief symptom of post-modernity. One might say, then, that it is the meaning of “irreality”. Poppy is irreal in that sense.

“Keeping things in perspective” was even considered the virtue of the Modern Mind. That meant, in effect, the proper distance or “point-of-view” for purposes of reflection, without distortion. If you are too close to a painting, there is distortion of view. Likewise if you are too distant, or off to one side. There is an ideal point of view where distortion of perception and perspective is minimal in regards to a work of art or, for that matter, a novel. And it can be quite unnerving and disconcerting when that distance breaks down and you find yourself suddenly drawn into Wonderland.

Poppy is Alice for the internet age, and she does a very fine job of it, too. And just as Carroll’s Wonderland couldn’t help but reflect all that was strange about the Victorian culture of his day, Poppy’s Wonderland mirrors the ambient weirdness of her cultural milieu, and all that is absurd and bizarre and ironic — especially ironic — about contemporary society. Like Kurt Vonnegut’s character Kilgore Trout, Wonderland has escaped the confines of literature and fiction to become our milieu — the “New Normal”, as it were.

And, yes. That’s creepy. But what’s creeping is everything formerly thought to be discarded by rational man as myth and magic — everything that Gebser once anticipated in The Ever-Present Origin as attending the breakdown of perspective consciousness. Creatures from the Lost Lagoon, as it were.

Still, I’m also uncomfortable with the Poppy meme because I see Poppy as a harbinger of Rolf Jensen’s design for “The Dream Society”. I consider Jensen’s “utopia” to be a total illusion, as I addressed that in earlier posts in The Chrysalis. And if you want to understand what concerns Daniel Bell about the “eclipse of distance”, you only have to read Jensen’s book to understand that. The Dream Society and The Global Brain are intersecting themes of the world wide web. But the Global Brain is also the site of nightmare as well, and Poppy also embodies this polarity. There is quite a contrast between Poppy as spider in the song “Interweb” and the Alice of the YouTube videos,

And with that, I think I’ve said as much as I wanted to say about the significance of the Poppy meme. Poppy is neither real nor unreal, but irreal. And in a lot of her YouTube videos, she speaks to that irreality of herself as meme.

Irreality is a very strange and weird place, like Alice’s Wonderland. But if you want to understand the meaning of Poppy, and Jensen’s “dream society” too, you have to understand the meaning of irreality.

 

12 responses to “Poppy’s World”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Just occurs to me that the apparent paranoia of pop culture with “Illuminati” conspiracy theories, upon which Titanic Sinclair and Poppy play, probably does have some connection with what Algis Mikunas described as “technocratic shamanism” — which I see as “marketing 3.0” or in Jensen’s “Dream Society” also.

    So, ironically, there is a modicum of truth to the idea of an “illuminati” if one considers it in those terms, even though it doesn’t seem very clear-headed about psychotechnics.

    Jensen’s “Dream Society” is actually my nightmare — a total propaganda construct like The Matrix, and the Matrix is an example of the “irreal” — the expropriation of imagination for no other purpose than to regulate the processes of production and consumption.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Considering our present circumstances, why think that Jensen’s “Dream Society” is not the one some of us are actually in the process of emerging from as opposed to a future possibility? Jensen is presumed a “futurist,” of course, but I honestly don’t see one iota of difference between Jensen’s “future” society and ‘The Century of Self’ in which we’re currently living, which was (predominately, but not entirely) Bernay’s invention. (Granted, I haven’t read ‘The Dream Society,’ but that’s precisely why I never will. “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” ~ George Carlin)

      Those present circumstances preclude such a “future,” I think. This reminds me of a comment I made on Newsvine shortly after the crash of the “global economy” back in 2008 on the subject of consumerism. I don’t recall precisely what I said, but it was something along the lines that a “consumerist” society cannot be expected to “consume” indefinitely when “consumers” are being left with absolutely nothing to “consume” with. The vast majority of us (and we are most emphatically not to be thought of as “consumers” or the “homoeconomicus” of delusional economic thinking, but human beings and global citizens) are already living in poverty or near-poverty. From where, exactly, is this “dreamed of” windfall of production and consumption supposed to come?

      On a related note: it would appear there is a huge fly in such “futurist’s” ointments already.

      It’s tempting to imagine that men like Elon Musk can save the planet for us, that we just need to unleash the power of their innovation and wait for the magic. But as the workers in Fremont well know, the quest for profit very often comes at the expense of people—even when the product is green.

  2. davidm58 says :

    Another analysis of the Poppy meme by fellow Gebserian, Jeremy Johnson. Comes to some similar conclusions.
    http://www.evolveandascend.com/2017/04/11/who-is-that-poppy-pop-occultism-meets-new-media-celebrity-critique/

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    BTB…. Merry Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, (soon-to-be) Ramadan, and every other celebration of (true) community to be enjoyed on this ‘Pale Blue Dot.’

    Love to you all and may the blessings of Peace, Hope and (true) Prosperity carry you all forward into the New Year.

  4. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    Happy days to all.Religious seasons are reminders to humans to celebrate their own day of spiritual awakening. It is how to address the artistic cosmos and
    how to raise the human lower art to the height of the divine artistic creation. As we create our joy we create our misery and the cycle of integration and disintegration never ends. It is to be present with the living presence. May all join the real chorus of the divine, aware that our absence from that reality leave us automatically with the low. Irreality is the twilight zone between the real and the unreal and Kafka entered that zone through the big human insect. Self-sabotaging is the realm of the humans that have forgotten their divine anchorage. It is a continual waves of light and darkness and no one can guarantee where they will land. We are all living in a sea of uncertainty and those who want to guarantee their certainty are deluded and death is a sobering reminder in that context.Thriving on the energies of others is the malady of the time., so is the call for human standardization.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    An interesting article on propaganda by Dana Nuccitelli in today’s Guardian, albeit marred somewhat also by its own flaws and biases.

    Nothing really to do with “Poppy’s World” directly, but I thought I would mention it here and will, perhaps, discuss it further in a regular posting

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/dec/27/fake-news-is-a-threat-to-humanity-but-scientists-may-have-a-solution

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Somewhat marred? No comment….

      My, my. Scientists have a solution to everything in Poppy’s world…I mean, uh…modern society, don’t they?

      The study found that while economic elites’ and business groups’ preferences often result in policy changes, public opinion has virtually no influence on policy outcomes.

      What a wonderful world it would be were that not the case, considering that “public opinion” obviously, overwhelmingly affirms the truth and reality of Anthropegenic climate change, along with the fact that the vast majority of our “representatives” actually represent the interests of the “economic elite” and business groups? Not all, of course, but the vast majority.

      Why is it that politicos can’t concentrate on that central — “root” — issue? Instead, they go on and on about “fake news” (which is obviously an interchangable term); how all-encompassingly those people, but certainly not themselves, are susceptible to and enthralled by its pernicious influence; how “post-truth” grips the land and, consequently, every fiber of our beings (when, obviously, it does not); what, if anything, can be done about it, technologically and otherwise; etc., etc. Or, in other words, reflecting an elitist and pernicious propaganda, regardless the “arm” of the “political spectrum” they supposedly embrace?

      To remedy the situation will require that we return to a world of shared facts, perhaps as judged by a neutral arbiter.

      Oh, please. No external “neutral arbiter” will ever make one iota of difference. What will make all the difference in the world is the “activism” of our intrinsic, in-dwelling, “neutral arbiter(s).” We tend to call these “consciences,” part and parcel of the stream of “consciousness,” as it is often referred to, but only in certain circles. Elsewhere, of course — and I would say most everywhere else — it goes by other names.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Well… no need for me to post anything about it now.

        I thought it was quite funny, though, that he would go through all this stuff on technocognition and neutral arbiters and fake news only to end up talking about the real issue as if it were an afterthought — the elephant in the room. Odd that. But that’s why I also found ii interesting.

  6. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    The spell of the spirits, negative or positive never leave the human sphere. In actuality these flashes are the main motivators of the human inner arbiter, the intrinsic initiator of the spiritual growth and conscious enhancement toward self freedom, away from slavery to others. I tried to read the article but the boss of the guardian refused to let me read unless I pay. I abhor such embargo on knowledge which god made it free to all. It is the prophets who have raised the flag of free knowledge that is why we found all prophets repeating the same mantra saying we want no money for our knowledge which we have received free from the source., encouraging people to seek their knowledge there through meditation and devotional work. I honestly find it absurd to think that there is no spirit that communicates the divine knowledge to the human realm but there is only human knowledge. A sick assertion that throw humanity into state of disarray, perpetuating the trajectory of the negative spirit that dominates the global mental scene with all its destructive manifestations. We are living in a time when the inspiration process will be proved and be tasted by so many across the globe and to prove to the pursuers of the negative trajectory that they are mistaken.

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