Five years after the release of The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, the same authors are releasing a much-needed sequel about how our brains are being affected by the current digital age. With The Extreme Self: The Age of You (Walther und Franz König, 2021), Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist deal with the most valuable resource of the modern age – YOU. This book opens your eyes to the current relativity of truth, the weaponization of feelings, and the morphing of individuality.
by Adan Flores. Images © Adan Flores, 2021
When you begin reading The Extreme Self, it feels as if you’ve picked right were you left off in The Age of Earthquakes. But that feeling changes quickly. The Extreme Self sets a darker, more serious tone compared to its older brother. Where the previous focus was very broad, The Age of You zooms in on… you. Its exploration of the Internet’s effect on our minds reveals many things that we already knew, but refused to internalize.
Simply put, this book is a perfect encapsulation of the current zeitgeist. If you’ve been feeling less and less like yourself, you’re not alone. The more time we spend creating personas online, the more we fragment ourselves and create what the book calls “the extreme self”. This self is part of us, but it is not us, and we are not it. The extreme self lives in the cloud, and the cloud is endless.
The individuality we know is changing, and it will continue to do so until the word loses its meaning. The extreme self is a very scary thought, but ultimately too real to ignore. The fact it is made entirely out of data and lives in the cloud does not help when you consider that we don’t know what either of those two things look like, and if we did, would that matter?
As its predecessor, the way this information is presented is phenomenal. Both heavily inspired by Marshall McLuhan’s 1967 visual essay The Medium is the Massage, the imagery allows for the condensing of huge ideas into small bite-size pieces, perfect for our ever-decreasing attention span… just like scrolling a newsfeed. This helps the reader visualize these complex ideas and creates enough breathing room for internalization.
The Extreme Self: The Age of You forces you to ask yourself, who are you? You’ve certainly changed, morphed, and although you’re still you, are you fully YOU? You are now navigating this age as a dual entity; can you handle it? The question we should be asking ourselves is not how we can adapt to so much so quickly; it is if we can.
Adan Flores is an undergraduate student in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.