A couple of weeks ago, I finished the cyberpunk novel Feed by M.T. Anderson, and have been meaning to post a little review of it, along with several other books I finished recently. I keep thinking about the message and story of Feed, which relates directly to the overall themes of this blog on technology, society and civic engagement.
Feed is a short dystopic scifi novel about a world where technology has become such a part of people's lives that they wear embedded computers that feed news, advertising, television programs, music and electronic messages directly into their brains. Told through the perspective of one teenage boy, Feed is a cautionary tale that explores issues of media consolidation, consumerism, privacy and environmental degradation.
It becomes clear quite early in the novel that the traditional sources of knowledge, from books to schools to the news have been surplanted by videos, music, commercials and corporate-controlled communications. The irony of reading a book about a society of people who don't read books was not lost on me.
M.T. Anderson uses the first-person perspective to great effect, writing in an imagined future teen-speak peppered with marketing phrases, techie terms and expletives. I found the teen-speak so telling about how language constricts and structures our thought processes. This becomes even more obvious as adult characters come more to the foreground, with their own argot that is just as limited and child-like.
To be honest, It took me several chapters to get into the novel, but once it got going, I couldn't put it down. I was literally shaking reading the last two chapters in anticipation and amazement. Gripping stuff.
For my work at Global Kids, Feed is a reminder of the importance of who owns and controls these new media channels of communication, and how to empower our youth to be critical consumers, disseminators and creators of online content.